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baby fever

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It’s way too quiet, and it’s the first thing Jihoon notices. There’s no child complaining that he had a nightmare, no excited babble travelling through his ears as his morning alarm, assuming it’s a good and considerate idea to wake someone up from their sleep to tell them that your favourite colour has changed.

Instinctively, Jihoon rolls over and throws his arm out to the side in the hopes of catching a warm warm body under it but is met with the harsh loneliness of a single, uncomfortable bed. He’s certainly awake now.

Jihoon can’t describe suddenly waking up alone in a cramped, suffocating room as anything other than jolting when you’ve known a life drastically opposite for the past six months and he loses time while he attempts to grasp his surroundings. For a minute he just sits on the bed aimlessly, equally stunned and concerned, then a soft knock permeates the deafening silence in the boxed room.

He looks towards the door and sees all of his stupid posters and nostalgic pictures (that somehow contain his best friend Jeno in almost every one) plastered across the wood in very Jihoon fashion and he proceeds to blink once, twice, three times in deep confusion. What is going on??

After a few seconds, the door opens tentatively slow as if the person behind it was nervously apprehensive and Woojin suddenly comes into sight, though Jihoon almost can’t recognise him at first seeing as he’s now blonde, smaller and appearing unnaturally young.

He’s still dumbfounded for a good thirty seconds afterwards but at the familiar sight of Woojin running a hand through his hair with a yawn, like he did every morning for the past six months, Jihoon’s brain finally kicks into gear.

He’s nineteen again.

His eyes widen when he comes to the late conclusion that the experiment had actually worked, and now, they’ve been displaced right back into their old lives. He’s a uni student again, with no substantial responsibilities except for getting to class on time and not making a fool of himself on a daily basis.

Jihoon doesn’t know quite how to feel about it yet, how to feel about leaving his new life to return to the comfort of his old one. He’d missed his reckless university lifestyle so badly when they’d first travelled, but now, it just feels weird to be back when emotionally he’s so much older now. How does he assimilate with his peers once again when he’s now so much wiser beyond his years, as conceited as it sounds. It seems Woojin is also conflicted, his tone giving away his sentiment, brows furrowing deeply.

“We’re back.” Woojin states the obvious, but his voice is timid, almost disappointed as his gaze travels everywhere in the room except Jihoon.

Jihoon makes a sound of affirmation, they’re really back, “It feels weird, doesn’t it.”

He doesn’t really phrase it as a query, but Woojin still hums in agreement, the golden lighting catching the hard lines of his face much like it did ten years in the future where Jihoon could have sat admiring his strong features for hours without getting bored.

Now, he averts his attention to where his hands are fiddling with the corner of his bedsheet desperately, and Woojin speaks again to fill the silence, “We’re probably missing class right now, huh?”

Jihoon shrugs noncommittally, “I don’t even know what day it is.”

“It’s Saturday, I checked.”

Jihoon now remembers that they travelled on a Friday evening after a day of classes, but it seems like light years ago now, the awkwardness and spontaneity of their decision seeming like a distant memory. He’s getting out of bed just so he has something to do other than stare at Woojin, and reminisces about the morning class he technically should be in right now.

They’re both avoiding the elephant in the room. Or rather, the elephants. They have so many questions that need answering, so many doubts that will only resolve as time passes, but so little answers. It’s mildly frustrating. Just as Jihoon thinks they’re about to address the situation, Woojin raises his hand gently, and Jihoon feels familiar butterflies as it nears.

“Your hair’s pink again.” Woojin smiles softly, and seems to contemplate reaching out to caress his locks, but thinking better of it as his hand limply drops to his side. Instinct compels Jihoon to grab that hand and return it on its track, and he offhandedly notices that Woojin’s hands are still as warm as they were before.

“I’m still the same Jihoon.” He whispers without realising, his mouth moving on it’s own accord, “You can touch me, it’s okay.”

Woojin sighs as if a weight has been lifted off of his shoulders, then smiles, a hand softly brushing through Jihoon’s pink locks and gently runs along the lines of his face, caressing his cheek. His hand cups Jihoon’s chin, and he thumbs his plump lips. They’re standing much closer than they were before.

“You look so different.” Woojin murmurs, and Jihoon chuckles quietly, so as to not burst their tranquil moment of intimacy.

Woojin certainly does too, but it’s surprisingly not as jolting as the first day they’d woken up in their Incheon house, ten years in the future. He remembers that day clear as snow, the shocking realisation that they were in an actual relationship and had a fucking kid. Jihoon doesn’t think anything could have prepared him for that.

They’re simply staring at each other, in a silence that would have previously been awkward, but is now filled with serenity and comfort, as they attempt to mentally readjust to being transported so far back into their old lives.

Jihoon can just feel them falling back into the ease of things, the simplicity of being in each other’s presence so obvious now the shock and confusion was slowly wearing away. He realises that it’s okay to fall back into their dynamic, that it’s easy and it always will be with Woojin. His other half seems to realise at the same time as they fall into a tight hug that severs the growing comfortable tension between them.

Another dawning falls upon them; Hyunseok. Neither of them breathe a word about the little boy, their son, but the air becomes weighted with a nostalgic sadness that pulls their hug a little tighter.

They’re going to have to wait so long.

The fragility of their shared despondency shatters instantly at the sound of the loud thud of their front door slamming open, and their heads both snap suddenly to the source of the noise.

Almost like a distant memory, Jeno’s voice rings throughout the dorm, and as the tears that had been threatening to spill over since he’d woken up finally cascade and Jihoon realises that it’s been a long while. He missed his best friend more than he ever imagined. He separates slowly and reluctantly from Woojin, and they enter the room Jeno calls them from.

He’s standing by the door, and staring at it intensely as if it’s done something to offend him by opening so violently, when in reality Jeno’s the once who’s always been misinformed about the extent of his own strengths

When he spots him, Jeno’s eyes widen comically and he lunges his entire body towards Jihoon, eyes crinkling into twinkling half moons due to the warm smile that takes over his face, “You’re back!”

Jihoon receives the force that crashes into him and falls backwards into Woojin as he wraps his arms around his best friend. A weird emotion surges as Jihoon remembers the way Hyunseok would crash into him like this often, especially after a tiring day at school that drained him into missing his parents dearly.

Jeno comes to his surroundings and realises exactly where he is as he regards Woojin with a bashful look colouring his features, “Uh... hi, Woojin hyung.”

It’s nice to see that Jeno was still so bashfully nervous around Woojin, his dance senior that he’d admired since day one but it takes only a few moments for the novelty to wear off before he’s complaining about the fact that neither of them have anything special to tell Jeno about his future endeavours.

Jeno stands back and regards the two with a dejected pout, before grabbing them both by an arm and dragging them out of the door, without so much of an explanation as “Chungha noona wants to ask you guys some questions.”

-

It’s mortifying to answer the incessant questions of exactly what happened in their future, to explain the intimate details while in their nineteen year old bodies. It’s disorienting being whisked away into the room they’d been in all those months ago, but in reality it had only been a day, and passing the machine that had transported them into the domestic life they’d been living for the past eternity is rather odd.

A pang of sadness strikes Jihoon as he listens to Woojin describe Hyunseok in detail, from his unruly mess of dark hair to his uncanny resemblance to that of a cute baby bear and he rushes to wipe the stray tear that escapes once he started detailing their son’s antics and his warm personality. Woojin’s smiling fondly as he talks about their son, and Jihoon painfully wants to sob.

He just misses him so much already.

Chungha, who’s roped them into all of this in the beginning, is standing behind them and the professor, face contorted in shock at the tales they tell, taking rapid notes while they talk and talk and talk about the success of their experiment.

Conflict rises within Jihoon as he ponders over the fact that the past six months have technically just been a scientific experiment. That the life they’d created and lived was merely an experiment. That their son was part of an experiment. He can tell that Woojin also subtly bristles at the choice of words.

The professor eventually comes to a conclusion, reminding them not to discuss the future too extensively to people involved, so as to not negatively influence their natural decisions and finally informing them once again of a dubious possibility of which Jihoon spent weeks desperately trying to forget.

The wise man’s face is terribly empathetic as he speaks, tone soft but firm, and he looks as if he’d rather be anywhere else but here; breaking the news, “Again, I must remind you guys that what you experienced was a visual snapshot of your futures, and there very may well be inconsistencies in the way your lives will actually play out.”

The professor treads carefully, “Though we are confident in our technology, I have to inform you of the fact that it could be very drastically different than you expect.”

And Jihoon’s mind effortlessly translates that exact sentence as the frightening possibility that Hyunseok may never exist.

-

Gradually, they attempt to settle into life without Hyunseok once again, but adjusting is proving to be as difficult as they predicted. They definitely did not miss having to get up at ass o’clock in the morning just to make it to class on time or the late nights of slaving away at assignments when he’d rather be cuddling with Woojin.

A pooling frustration eats away at Jihoon as he comes to the annoying conclusion that almost nothing he’s sitting for these tedious hours and hours studying for will be relevant when he enters the world of work.

He just feels world ahead of time as he observes the world around him, the difference in realities glaringly obvious to both him and Woojin when they spot Joohyun and Hoseok barely interacting save for awkward pockets of conversation, knowing that they’re going to have a fucking kid together in the next five years.

Jihoon feels gaping wide gaps in his life where Jaehwan and Minhyun are missing, when he hears Jeno say something about the necessity of thorough cleaning that would have Minhyun positively crying in overwhelming pride. He misses arguing with Jaehwan over trivial matters in the work elevator while they wait for their specific floors until the point that Minhyun loses it with both of them.

It’s weird because he and Woojin are constantly reprimanding their friends for swearing excessively, but there’s no use when there are no impressionable young ears to pick up on bad habits. It’s when he automatically looks for a hand to hold when they cross a bustling road, or the time he jolts awake from a slumber at three pm because he feels as if he’s forgotten to pick Hyunseok up from school but Hyunseok doesn’t even exist.

He averts his thoughts in seconds.

Still, it’s refreshing being thrust into a comfortable life with almost no responsibilities, and even though everything’s changed to them through perspective, things are essentially just the same as they left them.

(Nevertheless, their entire sector of campus cannot wrap their minds over the suddenness of their newfound relationship, and will not stop talking about it.)

Jihoon had definitely missed being able to get drunk off of his ass and not have to worry about finding someone to babysit his child, though Joohyun was always kind and willing help whenever they needed her. He missed the carefree lifestyle where he could dye his hair whatever outrageous color he deeply desired without the consequence of unprofessionalism in the world of work.

Though he’s experienced a life drastically different, Jihoon will not hesitate to claim the fact that he’s still most definitely a uni student at heart just with a little more life experience.

He would even say that because they travelled, life is slightly easier on them, seeing as they have valuable experience nobody else is privy to and understand how to get around things, even though Jihoon only recently finally taught Woojin to grasp the concept of actually saving money for later use, and the world just doesn’t seem so daunting anymore.

It’s strangely comfortable too, dating Woojin in such a young environment. As twenty-nine year olds, there hadn’t really been much time to do stupid, juvenile things like go on heart warming dates every other day because they had nothing else to do, or to stay out all night with in each other’s company, jumping from club to club until they eventually tired.

Jihoon had certainly known Woojin was a moping romantic at heart, seeing as he was no stranger to leaving short, sentimental notes around the house for Jihoon to later find, or to surprise him at work with heavenly home cooked lunch just because he wanted to hear his voice. But twenty nine year old Woojin was certainly no match for his younger self, who’s gained the habit of suddenly whisking Jihoon away to unknown locations he suspects he’ll enjoy - which he always does, but that’s not the point.

He’s also become a fan of sending Jihoon sweet texts when they’re in the same room, but occupied with different things, just to remind him of how beautiful he was or how much he loved him. Jihoon doesn’t think he’ll ever get tired of this and it’s absolutely crazy to imagine the fact that they’ll have a child together sometime in the near future.

Possibly.

It’s the only thing without a positive to counteract it’s bitterness, the only thing he utterly despises, the doubt that ceases to eat away at the darkest corners of his mind, a prickling sensation that keeps him up at night, that steals his focus from the thousands of words he has to read over by the next day.

No matter what Woojin tells him about fate, and how he has no doubt about their future, Jihoon can’t shake the idea that they could very well be assuming that the premonition was true because it’s easy, because they want to. What if they aren’t meant to be?

What if Hyunseok wasn’t going to ever exist? That thought sends a chill of sadness running violently down his spine, and he barely allows himself to contemplate a future without his son because whenever he does, it’s a vision that terrifies him so severely that there are long nights where he lay restless in anxiety, trying to force himself to believe Woojin’s reassuring words of soft comfort.

But Jihoon knows that Woojin’s scared too, that he is unable to shake the fear that grapples on to them either. He remembers being there to witness Jihoon and Woojin’s playful dynamic, the leniency and childishness Woojin exhibited whenever he played with his son. Jihoon remembers the first time he’d walked in on them interacting, Woojin softly reading a storybook to the young boy in his arms, and they way his heart had filled with intimate warmth at the sight.

Jihoon thinks it’s safe to say that this grappling fear fails to leave him throughout his entire university experience (which otherwise proved to be very memorable). It’s slightly frustrating, to not know if their actual future was going to play out as it did a year ago, but he finds his hope beginning to rise substantially when he witnesses many meaningful events that he definitely recognises.

Like when Hoseok finally introduces Joohyun to them as his girlfriend, and neither Jihoon nor Woojin can hide the ecstasy from their expressions, or when they finally complete their courses and Woojin comes running with the news that he’s secured his dream job at the academy and they cry together at the implications.

It feels almost like a confirmation that everything was really meant to be when Jihoon nervously (he doesn’t think that will ever go away, though he knows what he’s walking into) walks into his first day of work and coincidentally bumps into two faces he’d certainly recognise just about anywhere, and he resists the urge to jump his two new co-workers, Jaehwan and Minhyun.

When he’s telling Woojin about meeting the two choice characters he’s heard so much about, they slowly allow themselves to believe that maybe it really was their future.

It’s a few weeks after they’ve secured the same familiar house they’d lived in for those sacred six months, though it’s strangely empty to live in without the constant high pitched chatter echoing everywhere, when they’ve finally been cleared for adoption purposes nearing their awaited five year anniversary (and six months, technically) that the moment they’d prayed for occurs once the adoption agency.

Jihoon had been sick with nerves all up until this point, Woojin was no better no matter how much he attempted to hide it, but the wrenching feeling that washes of the two is totally indescribable as the first baby they’ve been scheduled to meet is brought out wrapped tightly in deep blue blankets, and it takes just one glance at the tiny features for the pair to break out into uncontrollable tears of wretched, heartfelt emotion almost surprising the staff around them.

Jihoon doesn’t know how to control himself now that he’s seeing their baby after all this time. They’re finally seeing Hyunseok again for the first time in agonising, drawn out years.

It feels like he’s been placed into a dissociative daze, like none of this is real, as their baby is handed over to them to hold for the first time, and the warm weight in their arms is overwhelmingly comforting.

A collection of meetings and gruelling signing of tedious paperwork later, they’re moving into their new house with a one year old Hyunseok and Jihoon has never felt so right in his life. Having Woojin by his side, and Hyunseok in his arms feels terribly surreal after the mounds of threatening anxiety that have been tormenting him for long years, and silently he wonders if anything better than this is out there to be experienced.

-

As expected, Eunsang, Chaeyoung and Woojin’s mother are immediately whipped once they see their son, and Woojin’s younger brother obviously loses his shit once he sees the mirroring mole on his son’s left cheek that looks exactly like his own and proceeds to not shut up about fate for the next hour until Woojin threatens to kick his younger brother out of his house, starting an argument between the two that Jihoon watches, amused.

Woojin’s mother is lovely to them both, and kind heartedly offers to care for their son whenever they need, then ushers Woojin and Eunsang our of the room so she can talk to her favourite (not to mention, only) son in law and favourite child to which both Woojin and Eunsang protest loudly at while Chaeyoung gloats at her siblings.

In that moment, amongst all of Woojin and his family’s chaos, Jihoon realises that he’s happy.

-

He remembers the exact moment Woojin’s phone lit up with the Bae Joohyun’s unexpected caller ID after almost two years of seldom contact while they were cuddling on their grey couch, immediately announcing to Woojin’s tearful happiness that she’d given birth to a baby girl on September 27th and that she thought it’d be nice to check in with them.

Jihoon almost can’t contain himself as he exclaims, “I’ve been waiting to see her for so long”

Joohyun must be giddy with excitement because she doesn’t even register the strangeness of his statement, seeing as the pair are meant to have no idea of the pregnancy nor the child, and responds animatedly, “How do you think we felt?”

“Little Eunbi must be so cute.” Woojin blurts and not even a second later he instantly slaps a hand over his mouth, eyes widening in regret but Jihoon is surprisingly calm and offers his parter a reassuring smile as Joohyun seems to realise at this point that there is no logical way Woojin could realistically know the name of her just born child, and her voice becomes increasingly incredulous as she questions exactly what and how they know.

“Must have slipped our minds to tell you that you were in our vision,” Jihoon says with a warm smile and the content that overwhelms his heart is pleasantly welcome as Joohyun gushes and whines about the sheer betrayal of their withheld information and how she was never telling them anything ever again.

Jihoon almost cries when he thinks about how things are falling exactly into place once again in the manner so similar to their vision and subconsciously he leans further into Woojin’s embrace as he listens to the background noise of his husband continuing the conversation with their friend.

Hyunseok’s playing soundly on the floor with his collection of toys and it’s here, surrounded by the comfort of his family and the warmth of their companionship that Jihoon finally feels at peace, and he knows Woojin does too in the way his embrace tightens and his shoulders relax in tranquility.

Obviously, their vision wasn’t completely accurate and inconsistency’s were most definitely present, but it doesn’t matter to them, because they know they’re still meant to be.

-

(Hyunseok also grows to be a fantastic child then an admirable teenager and Jihoon cherishes every moment, even the time he managed to come home sporting a giant, purpling bruise next to his eye, claiming that he’d gotten it defending Eunbi from a group of “assholes” as he’d called them.

He remembers being seconds from reprimanding him for his foul language but the withering look Woojin immediately strikes him with is enough to evaporate that idea. Immediately afterwards, Jihoon’s silently brimming with pride that his son has such a distinct moral sense even as Woojin lectures him about the dangers of resorting to violence.

He’ll always be proud of his son after all.)