When Kai comes to, it's to the soft chime of his alarm clock, an artificial piano luring him back into consciousness. He doesn't need to look in order to switch it off. With a soft huff, he turns to the side, cheek pressed into the cool fabric of his pillow. A heavenly contrast with his comfortably soft, warm blankets.
Outside, it's dark. He can see the night sky since Jongin tends to leave the curtains open. He likes the windows closed, though, which explained the muted silence.
With a yawn, Kai forced himself out of bed, trudging towards the window to open it. A cool breeze fanned over his face, as gentle as the sound of cars passing by below him like an artificial excuse for a river.
Not like he minded. He quite liked the sound, really. Kai wasn't big on nature in general. Collecting pressed flowers, trying to tell apart the cries of birds and hiking out into the woods... those were all Jongin's kinda thing. Kai liked cities. People. Man-made lights and sounds. It only made sense since those were all that he knew. Blue skies and blinding sunlight were things he only knew from movies and books, as well as his dreams.
Kai scrunched up his brows as he stared at nothing in particular, brushing his teeth.
He swore he had seen something unusual in his dreams. There was no written note on the nightstand though, so he assumed that it was nothing of importance.
If it was, Jongin would have let him know. They trusted each other enough by now. Enough to be functional at least.
He debated taking a shower but ultimately decided against it. After his shift, he decided.
When he left the house not too long after, a juice box in hand, there was a small tune resting on his lips. It was an unfamiliar one, presumably one Jongin had heard during the day, but Kai didn't feel all that resentful about it. He considered that progress. Just a few years ago, he and Jongin had been fighting so much that he seriously thought they wouldn't survive - Jongin would tire himself out with schoolwork and meet friends with no regard for Kai, only seeking seclusion when the sun was setting. Kai, on the other hand, had taken petty revenge by staying up all night; indulging in alcohol and light drugs; or even just wandering off, leaving Jongin to come to in a random flower field out of town. They had played this game for quite some time, to the point that Jongin's friends and family wanted to hospitalize him, to the point that Kai sometimes assumed that exhaustion would take one of them sooner or later.
Until one night, Kai awoke to a piece of paper taped to his door.
We need to talk.
That was three years ago. These days, things were going quite well. Jongin was a student by day, Kai a part-timer at night. Jongin's day began two hours after sunrise, and ended two hours before sundown. Kai filled in the gap, crawling out of bed two hours after the sun had set, and dutifully laying down to rest two hours before it would rise, fairly distributing the hours of the day between them.
It was a fragile balance still - with both of them itching to take control and live their own life - but they had come to terms with the fact that the sun determined whether Jongin or Kai was in control. They were sharing a body, and sharing was all they could do.
They were unable to mentally communicate with each other but sometimes impressions and feelings lingered on his tongue when Kai rose after sunset, surrounded by familiar scents and not so familiar memories forming translucent thoughts, dissolving upon further inspection more often than not. Maybe they were growing closer over time. Maybe one day, he could communicate with Jongin without using pen and paper or reminders on his phone. Until then, however, he was left responsible for his impression of Jongin, piecing together the bits and pieces he accumulated. He knew that Jongin was yearning to see the starry night sky with his own eyes, and how the fact that he'd never be able to do so was making him feel wistful on the regular - Jongin was silly like that.
Kai, on the other hand, felt pretty content with how things were. Sure, most people lived their lives during the daytime, but the slightly rugged environment and oddball people in his life suited him. It felt right.
Kai would often go to the store and spend his time stocking shelves, occasionally chatting with co-workers that had managed to get to him over the course of years. They, too, had accepted the fact that Kai was weird, even weirder than the usual roster of night shift employees; accepted that he'd never stick around or commit to anything outside of the store. There were no meet ups scheduled and no contacts exchanged, but that didn't mean that Kai didn't appreciate them, anyway. It was nice, being around people.
Today, though, he had a rare day off, and judging by the way his limbs were faintly aching, he was guessing that Jongin had spent the entire day buried in his books. Well, that was sad for him but didn't change the fact that Kai had a day off. And he was going to spend it doing the only thing he knew they were both fond of - dancing.
A part of him felt smug over the fact that he got to dance the entire night, forcing the taut, strained muscles to loosen up, every step echoing around the deserted studio.
As soon as he arrived, he put on music and lost himself in it.
Sometimes, just sometimes, he could feel Jongin when he danced. He'd feel him in movements that shouldn't be as familiar as they were to him, felt him in elegant turns that weren't his and the way every movement spread right into his fingertips.
He wondered if Jongin was dancing in his dreams.
It took hours for Kai to listen to his exhausted body luring him into a break but eventually, he called it a night and decided to go home early. He was feeling more amicable than usual, so he slipped into bed early. He only indulged in a light meal, a hot shower, and a book before bed, reaching past Jongin's stack of thrillers to grab the thoughtful novel he was currently reading.
It was evident that Jongin was having a hard time at the moment, and he had an exam waiting for him in the morning. Since passing it was in both their interest, Kai turned in early, setting the alarm to shortly after sunrise, to give him a little more time.
They were starting to find a rhythm, a balance. Maybe even a friendly co-existence.
It all came to a screeching halt, however, when Jongin broke a rule that they didn't know existed.
When Kai came to, it was to warmth and the remnants of hazy dreams dusting his every pore.
He blinked, confusion ticking over his face even as he refused to open his eyes. Something was off.
He wasn't in his bed, wasn't even properly lying down, really, which explained the tension he felt in his neck - but not the warmth surrounding him.
It hit him like a bucket of ice water. He wasn't alone.
With a small gasp, he ripped himself free of the arm that had been embracing him, startling an unknown man around his age.
"What's wrong," he muttered, still blinking the sleep away as Kai stood before the couch - before his couch - heart beating rapidly as he took in the sight of this... stranger. Who had been touching him.
Almost absently, he patted himself down, but he was fully clothed.
Seeing him so terrified, the handsome stranger looked alarmed.
"Jongin? I'm sorry-"
Hearing this name snapped him back into it. Within seconds, Kai had grabbed his jacket and slipped into his shoes, all but fleeing his own home, ignoring the other's calls and slamming his door in his face. It was dumb and reckless, but he'd panicked. Even after speed-walking down the streets until he was sure the other wouldn't be able to find him, his heart was still racing, refusing to calm down.
He felt somewhat... violated. Which was ridiculous in its own right because he'd done so much worse with their body than cuddling up to someone - but all he had done, Kai had done by himself. He'd never let people touch him in any way because he simply had no interest in that sort of thing.
Not to mention that there was one crucial rule between them - their lives mustn't overlap. Jongin didn't want anyone finding out about Kai and vice versa. There were a variety of reasons for that - one being that people would label him mentally ill and possibly hospitalize him, the other simply being that they both wanted their own, independent spaces. Surely Jongin had friends over at their apartment all the time, and Kai didn't mind. It was his time of the day, after all, and Kai went to bed every morning, having faith that he'd awake alone. It was the one thing he'd had unconditional faith in - that Jongin would never want anyone to see him.
Now he was walking down the streets and past illuminated shop windows, feeling goosebumps on his skin that had nothing to do with the cold breeze.
He felt both spooked and angry. A nauseating mix.
In the end, anger won, and Kai made it known by working extra hard at the store, pushing his body until everything hurt. Instead of going back to his apartment - where the stranger might possibly still be waiting - he sat down on a bench a few minutes from their home, watching the sky pale ever so slowly.
The sun was about to rise. He felt it in the way his eyes dropped closed, conscious forced to slip into a blurry state of rest so Jongin could take over. Only then did the memory of an arm around his waist, of pale skin, and wide, dark eyes shining with worry finally dissipate.
The next time Kai came to, he was lying in bed, thankfully alone. There was exhaustion resting on his every muscle like a hardening coat, and he could hardly blame it all on Jongin. For a long time, he just lay there, keeping his eyes closed and trying to get a hold of his dissolving dream. He'd seen the man in his dreams. They'd been in a park, with a grey sky above them. They'd been talking, him and the man. No, Jongin and the man.
He dug his fingers into the blanket, listening into the deafening silence of the room, but the echo of their conversation was long gone.
Eventually, he dragged himself out of bed. He opened the window and checked his row of the calendar. A short shift.
On the bathroom mirror, he found a note.
It won't happen again.
It took him the entire night to figure out what to reply to that. He could tell Jongin that it didn't matter, that anything he did during his time of the day was fair game so long as it didn't hurt him. It would fit right in with the way they had communicated in the past. But... it felt like a bit of a step back. Weren't they supposed to be closer than this now?
After spending an entire night thinking about it, Kai came to the conclusion that he truly didn't care whether Jongin had a lover or not. It was the fact that he hadn't bothered to let him know that was irking him to no end. Why that was bothering him so much, he wasn't sure. In the end, he decided to leave the note on the mirror, adding his own reply in a messy scrawl.
Did you tell him?
After a minute of tapping the pencil against the sink, he added another question.
Who is he?
Falling asleep was a little hard that morning, but when he did, his dreams were clearer than ever, and so was his consciousness in them. Jongin didn't meet up with the man that day. It was mostly a blur of books and hallways, and the note on the mirror, lying on the table now, with a blue pen tapping against the desk. The pen dragged over the paper in hesitant little curls and swirls, until the paper was crumpled and a new one took its place...
When the alarm went off the next day, Kai slid out of bed immediately, walking past the desk - where he saw the blue pen, but not the paper. The paper was back to the bathroom mirror, and there was quite a lot of text on it - a fact that made him nervous.
His name is Junmyeon. He's three years older than us and I met him at the café in the library.
He graduated last year and started working at Unicon. He's really nice.
He's been persistent, too, and he never made me feel like I'm... a weirdo.
Do you mind?
I think I want to give this a try.
Kai stared at the piece of paper. Even as he eventually brushed his teeth, he couldn't tear his gaze from it, dimly wondering whether Jongin was seeing him as his consciousness was asleep. He had never asked him.
He'd also never talked to Jongin about relationships. There had been no reason to, and for some, selfish reason, Kai had always assumed they'd both stay single. That a partner was not an option, considering their lifestyle. Well, apparently Jongin thought differently.
And did he really want to ruin this for him?
Kai took the paper with him to work, where it rested in his locker, right next to his keys and phone. He knew it had taken Jongin long to write these surprisingly personal lines, so he felt obligated to return the favour by thinking his answer through.
Not like there was much to think about. He already had his answer, could only take the time to analyze it from multiple angles.
This was important to Jongin, he'd felt that. And this guy, Kim Junmyeon... well, it was too early to form a judgement on him, so he tried not to. The thought of him being close to another person while he was asleep was mildly off-putting, but by the time Kai exited the shower a few hours later, he had come to terms with the idea. It wasn't exactly new, and as long as the sun was up, it was Jongin's body, after all.
I don't mind.
But if you're serious, you should tell him.
He saw Junmyeon much more after that, appearing almost every time he went to sleep. He'd meet up with Jongin for lunch, always torn between his much needed dinner and glancing at Jongin. There were meetups outside of that, too, but they were far and few in between, and always had Junmyeon show up in his dress shirt, about to head to work. It made sense; Jongin's day only went from around eight in the morning to four in the afternoon - a time where an office worker like Junmyeon was likely to work. It was quite a hopeless situation, like two pieces not fitting at all, and yet they kept trying.
With Jongin, Kai could kind of understand it, but why Junmyeon would bother trying to make this work was beyond him. How he could always look at Jongin with such wonder, how his eyes would crinkle when he smiled, how he melted into a soft, almost guarded state whenever Jongin hugged him or even playfully slapped his side - it was all so confusing to Kai. It was confusing to the point that it was irritating. What was he looking at Jongin like that for? Why did it feel so satisfying to be looked at like this? Why did Kai feel so empty upon waking up these days?
Winter was arriving, and the days slowly turned shorter. Darker, too, bringing heavy rain clouds to paint his dreams in the dullest colors.
Kai used to love winter, seeing as most of the day belonged to him. Sure, it meant that he would have to help Jongin out (or attend the occasional early exam) but generally speaking, Kai lived during the winter months. Every year, he reveled in the fact that for a few short months, he was the one in charge, making up for the lost, ‘barely there’ summer nights.
This year, however, a certain hint of somberness wouldn't leave him. It took him a while to understand that the feeling wasn't his.
Somewhere at the back of his mind there was Jongin, feeling small and depressed, and Kai wasn't above being irked by that. After all, he usually got a grip on himself during the summer months, so there was really no reason for Jongin to try and ruin this for him. But where Kai would usually adjust to simply being in a state of semi-consciousness for most of the summer months, Jongin refused to calm down, refused to rest, to the point that Kai himself felt fitful and strangely vulnerable while he was awake.
Eventually, he couldn't deny it any longer - whatever was bugging Jongin was linked to Junmyeon. Sheer pettiness stopped Kai from doing anything about it until he just couldn't bear it anymore. After all, it was hardly his fault that Jongin was feeling lovesick and missed the attentive gaze and quiet smile of… whatever Junmyeon was to him.
He caved during a weekend in mid-december though, taking it upon himself to sleep eight hours so Jongin had as much time as possible and could meet up with the emotional support he apparently needed.
After that, however, things only got worse instead of better, with the nauseous feeling in his stomach becoming a permanent resident, and Kai had nothing but hazy dreams to hint at what had happened.
What did you argue about?
- We didn't argue.
He stared at Jongin's neat letters, ruffling his hair in frustration. Not for the first time in his life did he wish he could drag Jongin to the forefront and force him to open up. But no matter how intensely he stared into the mirror, the only one looking back was him.
A knock on his door ripped him out of his thoughts.
As he warily crossed his only room, a look towards the clock told him that it was only eight in the evening. Still too late for a delivery though.
The knocking returned, simple and almost careful.
He froze, recognizing the voice straight away.
"Uhm. I actually heard you just now," the voice said after a while, but Kai refused to move a muscle, unsure of what to do. Junmyeon had called him Jongin, which meant... he still didn't know. Jongin still hadn't told him.
He wanted to be angry, but right then, he felt simply shell-shocked.
"I guess I can't come in, huh?"
He sounded disappointed, and Kai wanted to snap at him for it.
"Why are you here?" he pressed out, still staring at the door as if he feared it might disappear.
There was a sigh on the other end.
"I wanted to apologize for last time, but also... I wanted to ask what I need to do for you to trust me."
His heart did something funny at that, and it tripped him up, felt like he missed a step. Junmyeon sounded completely earnest, but there was also a certain sadness lingering in the air, no doubt dulled through the wooden barrier.
"Like. Is there anything I can do? I know you said you're alright but... I'm just worried."
Why didn't Jongin tell him?
When Kai still didn't reply, he heard a soft thud from the other end of the door, as well as a sigh.
Kai stared at the door, tried to picture the handsome, blurry memory of Junmyeon standing there, forehead pressed against the wood... and it hurt.
It actually hurt, but he didn't know how to make it better, and the prospect of opening the door was frightening.
He didn't say what he was sorry for, and Junmyeon didn't leave.
With slow, hesitant steps, he walked to the door, placing his palm on the wood. As if he could magically feel the other's warmth bleed through. He didn't.
"I just- want to be better," he heard him murmur. With a sigh, Kai leaned against the door quite like he was imagining Junmyeon was doing right now.
"It's not you," he said, just loud enough to be heard. It sounded pathetic, like something from a sitcom, empty words with no real purpose, but he meant them.
"It's not your fault."
Junmyeon didn't reply immediately, and Kai closed his eyes, listening closely. And waiting. Because that was all he knew how to do.
"I just wanted to understand," Junmyeon said eventually, sounding dejected and tired. "Are you scared I'll jump you or something? Is that it? Is it another kind of fear?"
"No..." Kai breathed out, fairly certain about how Jongin felt about this. About him. Them.
But that didn't make it his place to disclose any of it. This, behind the door, was Jongin's life. Not his.
The sigh on the other end was deep, and it settled in Kai's own stomach with an unbearable weight. He'd leave.
"Don't give up," Kai cut him off, fingers tense on the wood.
"Please," he added, a little softer. "Don't give up just yet. We- I mean I am almost ready."
It was the first time outside of family meetings that Kai had referred to them as one person. This went beyond his own ego though.
"I don't think I deserve you," Kai trailed off, hesitation dragging the words apart, "so I can only ask."
On the other end, Junmyeon was very still. Eventually, after it felt like the pause had dug a hole around his feet with the door remaining as the sole anchor, he replied.
"Will it be much longer?"
Kai shook his head, belatedly remembering that he was indeed still isolated.
He said just that, a response short enough to be said with conviction.
Junmyeon muttered something he couldn't make out, and then, a little louder, he said,
"I trust you."
He left after that, not without a soft "Good night," but Kai stayed where he was. He stayed by the door, eventually slipping down to rest with his back against it, curled in on himself and willing the ache in his chest to go away.
Jongin told him after that. Apparently, getting Kai involved had been the final straw, and Kai himself wasn't sure what to think of that. He told himself to simply be relieved that the other wouldn't show up on his doorstep anymore. The conversation itself had been somewhat blurry to him, leaving only memories of Junmyeon looking confused, maybe even a little helpless, but ultimately drawing him into a tight embrace. He'd held him tight - held Jongin tight - and that was probably the best possible outcome.
It didn't change the fact that the days were short, but Jongin seemed determined to make the best of it, meeting Junmyeon whenever he could, calling him when he couldn't, and Kai's dreams got clearer every day. He could see everything Jongin did with so much more clarity these days. He could only wonder if it was related to their bond growing stronger, or to Jongin confessing about their shared bodies. Maybe it was the kiss. Yes, maybe it was the first kiss they had shared after that, on the very bed Kai was so familiar with.
It felt like something broke between them after that, like Junmyeon was reaching right through Jongin's conscious to reach Kai, and that sensation peaked two weeks later, during their first time. It had been a weekend, grey sky obscured by the semi-transparent curtains, and Kai had felt the warmth of skin on his like he was right there. He felt the fluffy covers, the sheen of sweat and the foreign, distinct scent of Junmyeon clinging to him. His fingers on him, his lips and tongue and that look in his eyes - all of it was so real, down to the shudder running through him, to the part where they were truly one.
By the time the sun went down and Kai came to, he was alone. With a vague ache in his lower regions and surrounded by rumpled sheets someone had haphazardly changed. The scent of sex was nearly gone, but not that of Junmyeon.
And it made him feel even more hollow.
As his dreams got clearer by the day, the barrier seemed to grow thinner, too. It was hard to describe, but Kai felt like he was the one shining through during the daytime now. The other's life was so close that it almost felt like he was sleep-walking instead of resting, as if it was close enough for him to step forward and take over - he was so, so close and yet a thin, impermeable film was holding him back. It was maddening. Kai didn't even want to take over anymore. He just couldn't help it. This form of hyper-sensitivity was new to him, new to Jongin, as well, who sometimes tripped over Kai's thoughts. There was a clear imbalance and no matter how hard Kai tried to tire himself out during the night, it wouldn't leave. Jongin continued to meet up with Junmyeon, and sometimes, it felt like Junmyeon was looking right at him. At Kai. It was weird and everything was only turning more confusing and strangely painful as the weeks passed by.
For weeks, Kai assumed that he was feeling petty over Jongin being so physical with someone when it was their shared body.
At some point, it transitioned to him suspecting it was jealousy. He thought he was jealous of Junmyeon for being closer to Jongin than he was. But maybe he was jealous of Jongin, too?
What was it? What about feeling warm lips against his in his dreams made him feel so miserable? He didn't understand.
It was one of those days, where Junmyeon was so close again, all around him, one with him, that Kai realized that he wanted it to stop. He wanted the ache to go away, the gap to be closed, for Junmyeon to look at him.
And he did. For a brief second, he did.
"Jongin?" he asked, worry and concern pooling in his eyes as he cupped his cheek.
"No-" was all he uttered out, but the mention of his name was enough to pull Jongin back to the surface. Junmyeon wiped his tears, Jongin lamented how he wasn't sure what had happened, and Kai curled up in shame, hiding as far away in their mind as he could.
Is it uncomfortable?
I can stop with this kind of sex, if you want me to.
The words were familiar, but they sounded different when Jongin was the one writing them.
Kai's own letters looked sloppy in comparison, the letters as disjointed as the meaning put into them.
It's your body.
He genuinely didn't know what he wanted anymore, so the next logical thing seemed to be to seek his distance until all the ache had scabbed and scarred to a bearable level.
For once though, Jongin was the persistent one, and one snowy, early evening, Kai awoke to a different note taped to the bathroom mirror. It was different because there was a clear sense of purpose to every line, each of them written not in large letters, but centered. Taking up more space than their usual, open-ended conversations.
It's our body.
And our mind.
I don't want to make you uncomfortable.
Neither does Junmyeon.
Kai doesn't answer this time but he takes the paper and keeps it in the pocket of his jacket.
There's really nothing much for him to say. Whatever this was, he had brought it upon himself. It was all on him. Jongin did nothing wrong.
Still, the last line on the paper kept echoing around his head even the day after.
Junmyeon knew about him. He'd seen him, too, if only briefly. They'd even talked before, and yet it felt like they had never met each other before. Kai felt like he knew him inside and out, and yet not at all. And that he yearned to see him with his own eyes, face to face, meeting his gaze and hearing his voice... that was his own fault. So why could Jongin not just accept that and leave him be? Every single night he awoke to a new note, a new question, a new level of insistence.
Talk to me.
What are you thinking?
I don't understand you anymore.
It feels like we're back to square one.
I don't want that.
I want you to be happy. What do you need?
You can trust me.
Reading this, Kai snapped. Jongin was as persistent as the flimsy snowflakes attempting to cover a world that was still too warm to accommodate them. He simply wouldn't give up, and it made him feel cornered. There was nowhere to go for him though, no other place to be, so he grabbed a ballpen that night, angrily scratching his response into the paper.
What do you even want from me? My blessings? You got them already.
Just leave me be.
How do you expect me not to be affected by someone looking at you like that? It hurts.
Now I'm the one wishing I was you.
Are you happy now?
The impulsive anger vanished as quick as it had flared up, leaving behind a headache settling like dust.
He crumpled the note up and tossed it into the bin, vaguely hoping that Jongin hadn't seen him write it. How strong was their connection right now? He didn't know, but he felt observed. Scrutinized. By Jongin or himself?
Unable to deal with himself any longer, he set off to the dance studio. He flew over the parkett, dancing and dancing until his mind was finally wiped blank, until the illusion of a peaceful void lured him into falling asleep on the ground of the studio as the sun rose.
Kai dreamt of the studio, of streets and phone calls and a crumpled up paper.
When he came to, he lay in his bed and there was no note on the mirror. He felt like he was having a hangover. That was ridiculous, of course. Jongin didn't drink.
He also had a hard time recalling what Jongin had done during the day. Maybe there was an upside to exhausting himself. He shouldn't go back to selfishly pushing their body to the limits though. He could, of course. But it wouldn't feel right.
Jongin didn't seem to meet up much with Junmyeon after that - or maybe Kai was simply too exhausted to be conscious during the day. There were a lot of phone calls, but he could never quite make out what they talked about. Everything felt a little muted, dull and distanced, and while the stubborn ache in his chest remained, at least there wasn't any more salt poured over the wound. Maybe Jongin was planning on keeping his distance until Kai calmed down. It would be quite embarrassing, but at this point, he didn't have it in himself anymore to be prideful. He didn't consider that to be a bad thing though. It could be growth. Anything that would lead to him feeling less torn was welcome. And Kai did consider himself to be more grown up than he used to be, because he didn't hesitate before venturing out and buying Jongin a Christmas present. Winter was actually the only season where he had the opportunity to check out regular stores, so he was rather sure Jongin had gotten bored of his regular shopping trips already, certainly not paying him any heed as he carefully picked out a book he thought Jongin might enjoy. It was on his way back, inside one of the clothing stores he liked to check out, that he saw a set of pretty scarves. Thick, woolen and dyed in a warm grey, with powder blue accents at the end. It made him think of Jongin right away, with the other having such a penchant for pale, muted colors. There was one variant of the scarf which inverted the colors, making it predominantly light blue, and that one reminded him of someone else.
He had moved on to two other stores when he decided to rush back, slipping the scarves over the counter shortly before closing time.
Wrapping gifts wasn't exactly his strong point, but the result didn't look half bad, perched on his desk in metallic paper, with a small piece of paper taped to each package, containing nothing but a name.
That morning, Kai had a hard time falling asleep and ultimately, it was the rising sun forcing him into a dormant state.
Surprisingly enough, it was the best sleep he'd had in a long time.
When Kai awoke, it was silence. For a while, he lay there, shifting just enough to feel the cold blanket against his ankles. Jongin had put on a long pajama again.
His alarm hadn't gone off, but he felt like he had slept enough already. Had he slept in? Had Jongin switched off the alarm?
Confused, he reached for his phone, but couldn't find it. With a small groan in the back of his throat, he sat up - only to see someone sitting in his room. As far away from him as possible, someone was sitting on the ground, looking up from a book in his lap. It felt like he was seeing him for the first time, but unlike then, Kai didn't flinch. In fact, he didn't do anything, didn't even think anything. There was still sleep resting in the corner of his eyes, but his mind was wide awake.
Junmyeon's voice was soft, softer than he remembered it. He looked comfy, in his cream-colored sweater and grey pair of pants, like he was the one living here and not Kai. His black hair looked slightly tousled - though Kai was probably not one to talk - and there was an obvious caution written all over his features.
"Sorry for intruding."
It was clear as day that he expected Kai to lash out at him again, but he just sat there, warm blanket pooling around his lower body as he blinked at Junmyeon. He wasn’t going to lash out though, wasn’t going to get up and run. Because this time, Junmyeon knew. He knew about Kai and had voluntarily sought him out... and Jongin had let him.
He silently shook his head, feeling a bit like an intruder himself. This wasn't his life. But outside, street lamps dipped nearby buildings in orange light, glistening on the sad remnants of snow, so technically, it was.
Was he angry at him? Would he demand him to make Jongin's life easier? It couldn't be too bad if Jongin allowed him to proceed... probably.
Or maybe Jongin was sick of his attitude, as well.
With the book placed aside, Junmyeon got to his feet and approached the bed, looking quite unsure himself.
Eventually, he stopped, and they just looked each other in the eyes, with nothing between them whatsoever.
Junmyeon was the one breaking the silence first.
"Can I sit?"
He looked a little awkward, and that eased his own anxiety, so Kai nodded again. Junmyeon smiled and carefully sat down at the edge of the bed.
Maybe he thinks Jongin is mentally ill, after all.
The thought flashed up without warning, ripping through the fragile tissue of trust, and Kai hated it. Because even if he did, he wished he wasn't aware of it.
When they were at eye level, Junmyeon extended a hand.
"Hi again. Uhm. I'm Junmyeon."
He looked at the hand, but the hesitation was still sitting in his every bone, keeping his fingers in his lap.
"Yeah? Right, that's... right," Junmyeon muttered, licking his lips as he lowered his hand. "Uhm. I know we had a bad start back then, and I wanted to apologize for that."
"You didn't do it on purpose."
"No, but... I'm still sorry," Junmyeon insisted, and Kai had a hard time focusing with the other being there. Warm, friendly Junmyeon with the awkward smile and shiny eyes. Right there. With him. Memories experienced through Jongin flashed up, and brought a searing guilt with them. He shouldn't be this excited or happy. This was probably Jongin arranging something he thought would be beneficial. Giving Junmyeon an opportunity to apologize-
"Thanks for the present."
He must have looked as confused as he felt, and it visibly added to Junmyeon's own insecurity.
"The scarf? It was for me, right?"
He nodded. It was ridiculous how incapable of communicating he had suddenly become.
Junmyeon sighed in relief.
"Okay, good. Thank you. I like it-"
Whatever else he wanted to say got stuck in his throat when Kai reached out to touch his upper arm, just lightly grazing his fingertips over the soft sweater. How surreal. He really was right there. It was probably a selfish thing to do, but he was pretty sure that he wouldn't get another chance, and this was just so... fascinating.
Junmyeon was so much more beautiful in person. In a gentle, but firm way.
Handsome. Yes, that was the word.
His fingers glided down the other's arm, vaguely feeling solid muscle - a very real, grounding weight - until Junmyeon cupped his hand with his own. He didn't seem upset, quite the opposite. There was a certain spark of wonder in his eyes as he regarded Kai.
"You're really," he trailed off, searching for words. "Not like Jongin," he said eventually.
It was the last thing Kai had expected to hear, and Junmyeon actually intertwining their fingers intensified the fluttery feeling inside him to an unbearable level.
"We actually got you a present, too."
With his free hand, Junmyeon pulled something out from under the bed, and Kai let go of the other’s hand in favour of turning the soft, neatly wrapped package over in his hand. Beneath the metallic foil, soft wool peeked out. It was a familiar-looking scarf, the same model he had bought. Only that this one was all grey, with no accents.
"This was the only other color variant actually," Junmyeon admitted sounding fairly apologetic. "Kinda ruins the overall picture, but I hope you like it regardless. Jongin said grey isn't exactly your color, but- well."
"I like it," Kai murmured, eyes on the scarf as his fingers dug into the soft, slightly fuzzy wool.
He heard Junmyeon sigh.
"Good..." he hummed distractedly. "Good."
Warm hands were covering his, carefully prying the scarf out of his hands, and Kai sat up a little straighter, gaze resting somewhere around Junmyeon's chest as the fabric was wrapped around him.
It wasn't cold in his apartment, and the scarf really was warm. Kai took it as an explanation for the heat crawling up his neck, but the frail excuse crumbled under Junmyeon's imploring gaze that refused to stray, looking right at him with magnetic intrigue-
"Your eye color is different."
He blinked, nothing but a questioning "hm?" escaping his throat as Junmyeon leaned in even closer, head tilting to get a better look at him.
"You both have dark eyes, but in the sunlight, Jongin's are amber," Junmyeon explained quietly, and his ever-present smile had faded into gentle disbelief as he seemed to realize and accept that Kai was not something Jongin's brain had made up.
"Yours are... turquoise? I'm not sure in this lighting."
He looked surprised, but it was nothing but a diluted form of what Kai himself was feeling right now, staring at Junmyeon in nothing short of shock.
It welled up within less than a minute, before Junmyeon could draw away and apologize for being awkward. His shock turned into this liquid, hot feeling that was hard to describe and too heavy to carry.
He blinked, once, twice, but the lump in his throat only got worse.
"Jong-no. Uhm. Kai. Right?" Junmyeon asked, concern temporarily shifting aside his own wonder. "Did I upset you? I'm sorry-"
But Kai only shook his head, vision blurring even further until he leaned his forehead against Junmyeon's shoulder in an attempt to hide. From Junmyeon, from Jongin, from himself.
After a beat of silence, a hand landed on his back, stroking up and down in smooth, predictable movements. It felt like a permission to let out the pressure, which manifested itself in an ugly choking sound.
Junmyeon waited, waited until there was enough air in his lungs to form words.
"I didn't know that," he whispered eventually. "That we have different eye colors. Nobody ever told me."
It came out soft, with no judgement or clearly audible intention behind it. Kai only clung to him more tightly, fingers grabbing the other's hoodie, but Junmyeon wasn't going anywhere. He only placed his chin on Kai's shoulder and hummed.
"It's a pretty color though. I've never seen anything like it."
Kai sniffed, small and quite embarrassing, and the hand on his back returned to drawing aimless shapes over his sleepwear.
"I've been talking to Jongin, actually," he added after a while. Kai swallowed, but didn't move and neither did Junmyeon.
"I wanted to try and get to know you a little better," he admitted. "If you want to, that is. Jongin actually brought it up first, and he assured me he was okay with it."
His first instinct was to curl in on himself, struck by negative feelings.
Jongin knew he had started to fall for his partner and this was him compromising enough to make everything work. To ensure that Kai didn't ruin things for him, that he functioned-
"I trust you," Junmyeon said slowly. "He told me to tell you that. Didn't tell me why, but he was adamant about me telling you."
Kai paused, forcing his ragged breathing to calm down.
The thing about Jongin was - as much of a pushover as he was, as annoyingly meek and demure and stubborn he could be... he had never lied to him. There was nothing he could hide from him, he'd once said.
We're in this together, whether we want to or not. Sharing is our only option.
I'm okay with it.
I trust you.
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, trying to calm down enough to reach Jongin, who was slumbering somewhere inside him.
"I trust him, too."
He cried for real after that. Like an uninhibited child, he cried into the other's sweater, and Junmyeon let him. Kai couldn't remember whether he had ever cried like that, but he wasn't ashamed of being seen like this by either Junmyeon nor Jongin. He wasn't alone and he wasn’t afraid.
And that felt surprisingly good.