there’s an undercurrent of something numb, even as tae stumbles into the water in front of him. he knows it’s not real - that this is only a dream, and he’s mildly appeased that his brain decided to give him a break with all the hurt.
tae knows this isn’t real, but he relishes the feeling of water washing over his feet. warm and lazy waves kiss his feet hello and goodbye in turns, and tae can feel something in his chest loosen enough where there’s a small shred of appreciation besides the numb.
there are other people on the beach and tae can’t help but wonder if they really are other people in this dream with him or if they’ll turn into nightmares if he looks closer. tae walks along the shore, letting his pants get wet as they drag along the sand. he thinks his dream was silly to put him in jeans, but what else is he going to do. he wishes he had a camera so he could click click click capture the image of the sun setting in the distance.
there’s a pair of feet by his and when he looks up someone’s offering him an ice cream cone. soft serve vanilla chocolate swirl that looks almost ethereal in the purple pink skies of his dream. tae wonders a second time, if this will end up in a nightmare.
“thank you,” he says instead, smiling at the beautiful man, who smiles back at him and nods.
“you seemed like you could do with some ice cream,” he says in response. “i’m jin. what’s your name?”
the ice cream is suddenly gone, but they’re still walking together. “tae,” he says. “my name is tae.”
tae wakes up and is greeted with his dark ceiling, the sun still below the horizon. he feels tired all the way in his bones and wonders how he’ll manage that day; he’s so tired he could cry. not even bothering to check his quietly ticking clock, he rolls over and tries to go back to sleep.
he’s back at the beach. which is curious, because his dreams don’t often align themselves to each other. in the dream, tae wanders out into the water, until it’s at his chest. he’s staring at the dark water, wondering if he can drown and escape hurt even in his dreams.
“i know what you’re trying to do, please don’t.” it’s jin, from before, with his hair wet but his shirt dry, even though he’s in the water with tae. he’s taller than tae, too.
tae feels shy to tell jin that he’s the only thing that feels tangible in his dream. “i just want to rest,” he offers instead.
jin holds his hand out to tae instead, soft, slow smile on his face. “let’s take a walk. i’m sure we can find a camera for you closer to shore.”
tae doesn’t wonder too hard about the implications of jin knowing that he wanted a camera - it’s sunset again - it is a dream, after all.
jin’s hands warm and they hold his own so softly. it feels so close to real that tae knows when he wakes up, it’ll be with tears on his face and the aching reality of being alone.
tae doesn’t want to ask too many questions - it’s a nice dream and jin is holding his hand and they’re walking at the beach during a never-ending purple and orange sunset.
tae wakes up alone.
he cries while the sun rises, misses the sea-salt air of the beach, misses the warmth of jin’s hand.
pulling the blankets around him to simulate the feeling of being hugged, tae pushes his hand against his chest while chanting, “stop crying, it’s okay, stop crying, it’s okay.”
he doesn’t stop crying, and it’s not really okay.
that night, when it’s time to go to sleep, tae goes easily, knowing that dreams don’t ever really repeat. after a long day of class and studies, it’s not hard for his exhausted body to sink deep into sleep.
he wakes up to a smiling jin. “hello!”
tae blinks slowly. “this won’t turn into a nightmare, will it?:
he’s greeted with bright laughter as jin nods, falling back onto the sand that tae’s laying on. “no, lovely tae, this won’t turn into a nightmare. otherwise we’re both in for a treat i think we’d rather avoid.”
“yeah,” tae responds quietly, not really sure how to keep the conversation going. “i,” he starts then stops quickly, biting on the inside of his cheek.
he’s chided gently. “don’t do that.” jin reaches out to lightly tap tae’s cheek. “it’ll hurt later.”
“it’s strange to dream about you twice,” he tells him honestly instead. “but since this isn’t real, can i hold your hand again?”
jin laughs again and easily offers his hand out. “thank you,” tae blushes, rubbing his thumb across jin’s knuckles. “i don’t get to hold many people’s hands.” he wants to explain to jin that he’s not weird, just… alone. “it’s nice.”
jin nods seriously. “i understand, tae. don’t worry so much, okay? you only have to ask for you want. i probably won’t say no.”
tae chews on his cheek some more and then falls into jin’s arms.
he spends the rest of his dream talking to jin about the sky and the sand and the way the water changes colors and the color of jin’s eyes and tae’s blush in jin’s arms.
waking up only ever really seems to get harder, not easier. tae’s tears fall a little easier each time, as he realizes the futility of trying to hold them back. it’s getting harder to stay awake, focused. jin worries about him, says he’s losing weight and that he looks tired, but tae just curls into jin and wishes it felt warm like it should. Sometimes if he tries too hard to chase warmth that isn’t there, he accidentally wakes himself up too early and the dream is over. he’s stuck with tears and his pillows and the fast fading memories of jin’s arms.
“you’re sleeping too much, baby.”
with his ‘illness,’ it’s easy for tae to send a quick email to the professor the day before and asking them for leniency for the class he’s about to miss. “mmm i’m not, i promise.” tae offers jin a sunny smile.
they’re sharing a hammock not too far from where they normally walk. tae was dozing - he finds this sort of funny, the way he can sleep a dream, a rest from his rest. his feet are under jin’s thighs, numb under muscle.
jin looks more serious than usual. “you’re here for so long, longer than you used to be.”
“i just miss you,” tae says softer than the wind around him, causing him to have to repeat himself a few times before jin finally hears.
his face softens and he pokes tae in the stomach with his foot. “don’t be silly. i’ll always be here.”
tae wakes up.
and jin always is there, until of course, one day, he’s not.
no matter how many times tae falls asleep, he’s back to the regular array of meaningless dreams. before jin, before the beach and their long talks and hold handing and hugs and love, before their love.
tae finds himself upping his dose of sleep medication, taking it back to back in hopes he’ll sleep until he finds jin again, but it never happens.
jimin, his old and beloved friend, gets sick of watching this happen and forces him to go to the nearest beach with him. “it’ll be good for you, tae - besides, the beach used to be your happy place.”
tae doesn’t say anything but he falls asleep on his way there, hoping to catch a glimpse of a tall, ever kind, ever lovely jin.
it happens when he’s in line at the ice cream parlor. he orders a chocolate and vanilla swirl, even though it won’t look as magical without the purple sun set, won’t look as small in jin’s large hands.
he sees jin.
or, rather, jin is the one holding tae’s ice cream cone out to him again. now he’s wearing a green apron with his name pinned to his chest, and he can’t help but breathe out,
he looks up, confused smile on his face. “is there something wrong with your order?”
tae blinks. “uh- n. no, nothing’s wrong.”
he pays as quickly as possible and walks out. the sun is too high, not at all the sunset he so desperately needs.
jimin asks him where their cones are, and tae.
tae isn’t sure where the ice cream has suddenly gone, but he knows where jin is.
he dreams of jin again. of him, but not with him. for one, they’re not on the beach. secondly, this jin doesn’t talk to tae. doesn’t even look at him.
it all hurts too, too much.
tae thinks of the way the world works. thinks of the way the world works, the way the world works, the way the world works.
the way he sleeps, looking for jin, letting days pass through his hands like sand until he goes to the beach again.
and jin introduces himself to tae, again.
and tae, tae falls in love, over, and over, and over again.
they’re both shy. they both have a history of too much loneliness and not enough love, which makes them a little bit scared of each other.
there’s so much power in love, tae thinks. there’s so much power in love, so much power in trust, so much power in dreams, and tae finds himself dreaming of this jin, the future and ice cream dates and evenings under water and a future, future, future where they’re together and kisses always taste like strawberries and happiness, where they’re together and dream of each other, where they’re together and even fights are purple hazy and light.
tae wonders how soon is too soon to tell jin he’s in love with him. tae wonders if jin thinks he doesn’t noiice how carefully he holds tae’s hands and hugs him. tae wonders if jin thinks he doesn’t notice the way jin holds tae and then himself in hopes of softening the blow of love.
jin’s fingers rub across tae’s knuckles, trail over the arch of tae’s eyebrows, graze the skin on tae’s neck, whisper along the slopes of tae’s cheekbones. jin is careful with tae in a way that has tae reeling, from touch and warmth and something else he doesn’t quite have a name for.
tae fills jin’s mornings, texts him during quiet moments in early evenings and kisses his cheek in a soft sweet kind of way. tae visits jin on random mornings, on rainy afternoons and they walk along the beach during soft pink sunsets.
they’re in love.
jin still doesn’t know. it hurts tae sometimes, to know that his love started from a dream that no longer exists.
it hurts more that he doesn’t get to share these memories with his jin, his lovely jin, who sings him good morning and kisses good night into his skin.
the first time tae invites jin to sleep over, he’s nervous. but that night, they curl into each other and tae falls asleep with his head on jin’s chest. he dreams of both jin’s as his one jin, just scared, just hurt, just looking for some form of peace.
tae and jin both wake up crying, and tae knows he knows and tae knows jin knows he knows.
they take long walks on the beach, share ice cream that looks unreal under sunset skies and their kisses taste like strawberries.
they’re in love.