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all these voices in the background of my brain

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“Fuck, my ankle hurts,” Jongin winces as he tries to keep up with Kyungsoo’s fast pace while dodging the passersby on the sidewalk.

“You should put some ice on it,” Kyungsoo throws him an attentious, warm look despite his hurry. They must have breakfast in less than half an hour so he can get to class in time. “Look on the bright side: I just woke up this morning thanks to your yell,” he grins. Kyungsoo’s one of those heavy sleepers whose alarm clocks don’t work for anything in this world.

“Yeah…” Jongin replies absentmindedly. The throb isn’t strong enough for him to worry about, but it began after he tripped on a pair of shoes when stepping out of bed this morning, so maybe he’s got a sprained ankle. Plus, Kyungsoo’s quick steps haven’t been easing Jongin’s pain at all. He yawns, “Man, I need a double shot of espresso so I won’t fall asleep during the test, ‘cause—”

“Watch out!” Kyungsoo warns before grabbing Jongin by his wrist and pulling him nearer and away from the edge of the sidewalk. A bicycle promptly zooms by, too close to the curb where Jongin had been carelessly striding less than a second ago. “Hey, asshole! Watch where you’re going!” Kyungsoo yells angrily at the cyclist, but his complaints are lost under downtown’s traffic noise.

If the parcels tied to the bicycle’s back seat are of any indication, he’s just a delivery worker doing his job. Jongin simply shrugs, holding hands with Kyungsoo so they can resume walking. He knows his friend; Kyungsoo would probably run after the stranger just to make him say he’s sorry, and Jongin is having none of that.

“Shh, chill out, Soo. No harm done,” Jongin appeases him and Kyungsoo clicks his tongue, but allows himself to be ushered by Jongin to the coffee shop.

Jongin gets some caffeine in his system and finally feels human again. Kyungsoo is sat across from him, head buried in a book as he reads aloud random sentences from time to time with a frown on his face. End of semester does that to college kids—Kyungsoo is running against the clock to cram into his brain all the course’s lessons in time for today’s test.

On the other hand, Jongin is a diligent student who’s always caught up on homework and class readings. That’s why he can now afford the luxury to peacefully scroll through social media, for he’s definitely ready for his exam.

God, forgive me!…”

Jongin raises his head with a snap the exact instant he hears that scream, that plead, that wail. His finger slips erratically on his cell phone’s touch screen, and the device falls on the table when his hands tremble due to the abrupt fright. The motion is sudden enough to break Kyungsoo’s attention on his reading, a cautious and surprised gaze aimed at Jongin as if waiting for an explanation. Jongin doesn’t even acknowledge his friend’s reaction, eyes wide open scanning his surroundings, taking in every single detail because where the hell did that voice come from?

The café appears to be as normal as usual—there are people ordering, people drinking, people serving. Some happy grins and neutral features adorn the customers’ faces, with a couple of tired looks here and there. There are no tears nor sobs, no anguish nor grief. No one seems to have cried those words out, and Kyungsoo’s questioning eyes make it clear that he himself hasn’t heard them either.

Jongin doesn’t understand quite well what has just happened, so he prefers to take it in stride. He tries to loosen up his tense stance a bit, and a fake, sunshiny smile curves his lips upwards. “For a sec I thought I had studied for the wrong quiz…” Jongin snorts, as if making fun of his own stupidity. The answer seems to satisfy Kyungsoo, who resumes his reading without a single word.

However, Jongin still hears it in the back of his mind. That lament.

I’m so, so sorry…”

And then annoying beeps tingle Jongin’s ears.

*  *  *

Jongin goes through the motions for the rest of the day on autopilot. It’s easy for him to tune out the steady beep as white noise so it doesn’t bother him that much, but that low and raspy voice troubles him. Sometimes it makes undistinguishable mumbles, sometimes Jongin can tell the scattered words apart, like amenities or greetings.

He doesn’t recognize that ear-catching tone; it isn't like anything Jongin's ever heard in his life. Such a husky voice could easily come off as rude, but it echoes so sweetly in Jongin’s mind… And why does it sound so hurt every now and then? Jongin is torn between curiosity and compassion, and a small part of his—which isn’t actually small—feels weirdly turned on by that voice. That deep tone is strangely melodic even doing something as simple as murmuring, and it shakes Jongin to his core. If somebody with such a voice whispered into his ear, his knees would literally buckle—Jongin’s been on a dry spell for some time now, don’t judge him.

It’s time for his literature exam and all questions are easy peasy lemon squeezy, just like Jongin expected. However, there are only letters printed on the paper before him, so why is his mind being hammered with numbers?

102-405… 30174...” The voice mutters, and Jongin’s hold around his pencil falters mid-sentence when he struggles not to instinctively write down the numbers on the answer sheet. “Next is…” The words drown out.

Jongin can’t understand what is said next, yet he can still hear it, as if it were a bad quality audio played on the lowest volume possible. It buzzes in his ears like an inconvenient mosquito flying by. He clenches his teeth and narrows his eyes at the paper, as if that would help him read the exam more clearly. When the humming persists distracting, Jongin raises his left hand to one of his ears to block sound altogether, but there’s no use—the voice isn’t exterior; it comes from inwards as if it’s born within Jongin’s brain.

Jongin clicks his tongue, irritated, and doesn’t acknowledge the disturbed glares thrown his direction by his classmates. It’s awful, like someone’s mixed Jongin’s mind in a blender with someone else’s thoughts. Whenever Jongin attempts to follow a reasoning of his own to answer the quiz, it’s like a kid rattling random numbers out loud just to pester your own counting. Jongin balls his hand into a fist over his ear, and starts jotting down the correct answers every time the voice gives him a break—no matter how short of a break it is.

He doesn’t reread his exam before turning it in because he knows it’s useless. What will Jongin do if he notices an error? The voice is still babbling numbers relentlessly, he won’t get enough focus to fix anything. Jongin would rather gamble, since he’s pretty confident in his knowledge despite being compromised.

He takes the subway home, and opens the door to find Kyungsoo cooking dinner—yum, it’s the best greeting ever.

Kyungsoo is stirring something in a pot when he sees Jongin standing on the kitchen doorway. “I cook, you clean,” he announces, and gets an obedient nod back from his roommate. However, Jongin’s face must have given away something about his inner turmoil, for Kyungsoo soon sets down the ladle to look Jongin in the eye, “What’s wrong? Does your ankle still hurt?”

Jongin purses his lips in thought because only now he realizes he hasn’t been feeling any pain since around afternoon. He mentions to answer Kyungsoo, but he cuts himself when the sweet yet grave voice unexpectedly coos in his mind, “Zzart, you're so cute!

Jongin blinks his eyes a couple of times, trying to situate himself after being disrupted. When his eyes regain focus, Kyungsoo has an eyebrow raised and plump lips tensed in a straight line. That’s Kyungsoo's anxious face and once he turns his worried-dad mode on, he just won’t leave you in peace.

So Jongin lets out a deep sigh and keeps it vague, “I don’t know… I feel weird. My ankle’s fine, though,” he adds in afterthought.

“I still think you should see a doctor,” Kyungsoo advises, retrieving the ladle, and that’s when Jongin knows he’s successfully fooled him. “Maybe it’s just dead week anxiety, but you never know…”

Jongin smiles at Kyungsoo’s concern, and this time it’s an authentic grin. He washes the dishes as Kyungsoo finishes cooking kimchi stew. They have dinner together and watch a couple of variety shows to relax. Jongin has his mouth full of toothpaste and is staring at his own face in the mirror when he hears low whimpers.

He refrains himself from yelling out a question to Kyungsoo, even though they’re the only ones in the apartment. Jongin knows the sound doesn’t come from here—it’s all inside his mind. He doesn’t acknowledge the shiver that runs down his spine as the sobs grow into a full outcry. Jongin brushes his teeth and tries to pay attention to the noise of the toothbrush, to the noise of water streaming from the faucet, to the noise of Kyungsoo’s soft snores from the bedroom closeby.

What have I done?...” Jongin’s ears catch a particular groan when he’s putting on his pajamas.

He lies down on bed, eyes aimed at the ceiling. It’s midnight, the city has fallen asleep. Traffic noise is almost nonexistent; some dull brightness from the streetlights stream through the curtains. Now all Jongin can hear is Kyungsoo’s muffled snores, his own breathing and this stranger’s howls, which reverberate so loudly inside his head—someone might as well have it played on a megaphone into Jongin’s ears.

Jongin doesn’t see himself as a good Samaritan or anything; however, it feels odd to be aware of that obvious dejection and do nothing about it. Witnessing something so personal feels… Voyeuristic; it isn’t his right. Jongin doesn’t think straight when he gets his pillow over his head and presses it hard against his ears to no avail. There’s a hand around Jongin’s heart, squeezing it rudely with full force and without a care. He may be out of his mind because he’s sleepy, he may be out of his mind because these agonizing shouts get to him.

Jongin’s a sensitive person all right; he’s the type of guy who cries over chick flicks and sometimes he feels too much empathy for his own good. It may not be his own pain, but it hurts him just as intensely. Jongin doesn’t know if this voice has a face to call its own. Nevertheless, Jongin wishes to take this stranger’s hand into his own and hold him tight, Jongin wishes to tell him that he’s not alone and his cries won’t fall on deaf ears.

Tears spill from his eyes before Jongin can help it. His throat closes in itself and he opens his mouth to gush in as much air as possible. He stops smothering himself with his pillow and rolls around in bed until he’s lying with his chest full against the mattress. Jongin hides his face in the crook of one of his arms, his nose resting on the inside of his elbow.

The wailing keeps going in the background, and it’s so sad how that warm voice can convey so much suffering. Jongin makes an effort to remember how happy it had sounded earlier, when it distracted him during his talk with Kyungsoo. Yes, that’s better.

Jongin is still crying silently when his brain shuts down at last.

*  *  *

Jongin’s eyes are rimmed with dark circles when he wakes up from his awful night. One tense glance from Kyungsoo over bread and milk during breakfast is all Jongin needs to comply at last with his roommate’s stubborn request to go see a doctor. Truth be told, Jongin’s ankle is okay and he can walk around just fine, but he has the feeling that talking to a professional would help him pull himself together and come to terms with all the madness that has happened in the last 24 hours.

Even so, when Jongin finds himself in a white and sterile clinic room in front of a doctor whose lab coat and squared glasses scream credibility, he can’t bring himself to open his heart. Some silly fear pricks into his brain that maybe—maybe—he’ll end up hospitalized if he admits to hearing voices inside his head. So Jongin answers the usual questions about pain and has his foot and ankle examined by the doctor, who steadily presses his fingers into Jongin’s muscles, looking for signs of injury.

Good morning!” The voice chirps with strong liveliness, so unlike last night’s desolation.

“Good—” Jongin replies reflexively to the greeting and belatedly bites his tongue to refrain from uttering the next words. The doctor raises his eyes from Jongin’s medical record, confused. “...Good to know there’s nothing wrong with my ankle,” he’s quick to amend his mistake.

“Yes,” the doctor nods naturally, and Jongin’s lapse goes unnoticed. “There are no signs of sprain; your bones and joints are all right. The ache was temporary, but I can prescribe you some pain reliever just in case,” he scribbles something on a piece of paper, and slides it over the desk in Jongin’s direction. “You said you dance, right? You may resume physical activities, just don’t overdo it, please,” the doctor advises with wise eyes, and Jongin can only assent in response.

When Jongin closes the door behind him, he feels as burdened as when he first walked into the room. The hospital’s painfully pristine walls seem to mock him as he strolls down the hallway and passes by the rooms. Jongin’s heart becomes heavy as a rock as he takes a peek at the patients out of the corner of his eye; someone might as well laugh at him for his stupid panic. So what he hears weird voices in his head? Here are bedridden people with serious matters at hand, whereas Jongin has been fussing over small things. It surely puts things in perspective.

Jongin presses the button to call the elevator, deep in thought and unaware of his surroundings. The machinery dings when it arrives at the current floor and, as if someone’s turned up the volume of a speaker out of the blue, the sound merges into the never-ending beep that Jongin’s grown familiar with in the last 24 hours. The noise breaks away from the well-kept cage where Jongin’s locked it up in the background, and now it echoes on full blast within his skull.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Jongin prefers putting up with a hundred sleepless nights due to the voice howling in his ear rather than enduring this earsplitting beep-beep-beep. He’s in a daze and his legs won't  follow his instructions; he’s stuck to the ground despite his own will and he fears his knees may give out if he tries to take one single step.

Someone taps on his shoulder, and Jongin makes out something like, “Sir? Are you okay?” It’s probably one of the people waiting to get into the empty elevator—if Jongin hadn't been blocking their way, that is.

“Ye-es,” Jongin gasps out, although he himself can’t properly hear his own words. He hides the impending migraine that threatens to take over his head and forces himself to walk into the elevator at last, dragging his feet with huge effort. Jongin hits the ground floor button and leans back against the metal wall, hoping that its coldness would soothe his headache.

He doesn’t understand why the beeps are so fucking deafening; Jongin believed he had controlled them successfully yesterday. Now he can almost picture the sound waves fluttering around the limited space within the metal box, hitting him again and again, piercing his ears and chopping his brain into little pieces of mindless mind.

Jongin doesn’t quite catch the final ding announcing the elevator’s arrival to the ground floor, and he only realizes he must step out when he finds himself all alone in there. He stumbles out of the elevator and begins his odyssey towards the exit, crossing the hospital’s entrance hall with hasty steps. It’s an arduous walk despite being just a couple of meters, and Jongin pretends not to see the guards’ worried gazes aimed at him.

The exact moment Jongin gets outdoors, the beep dies out.

*  *  *

Jongin doesn’t feel certainty at talking to a doctor about the voice, but something about Baekhyun sticking a French fry into his own nostril and Kyungsoo slurping soda loudly gives him the sureness of speaking up with his friends. To be honest, Jongin faced the sudden attack of loud beeps back in the hospital as some sort of sign that he may pass the point of no return if he treats this matter lightly. After all, the beep still runs in the back, but it’s just white noise—for the time being. So now it’s time to open up to someone so Jongin won’t have to hide things anymore.

“You know that thing about hearing voices in your head?” He tries to keep his tone uninterested as he asks over the loud noise in the cafeteria.

“Do you mean schizophrenia?” Kyungsoo deadpans without sparing him a single glance, and Baekhyun shhs him, eyes shining with expectation.

“Tell me more about it, Nini,” he urges Jongin on, propping his chin in his hand.

Jongin lowers his gaze to his own food, so the lie won’t be obvious. “I have a friend—”

“It’s always a friend,” Kyungsoo mocks, and Jongin promptly hears the distinct bang of Baekhyun kicking his roommate’s shin under the table. Jongin shrugs; it serves Kyungsoo well.

He resumes as if he had never been interrupted, “...Who’s been hearing voices—no, one voice in particular—inside his mind and he doesn’t know what to do.”

Thankfully, Baekhyun takes him seriously, “Does it ever talk back? Do you know if the voice hears ‘your friend’ back?” Baekhyun draws quotes in the air, and Jongin rolls his eyes.

“I have no idea,” he scratches his chin, pensive, since Baekhyun’s questions are actually pertinent. He hasn’t even tried to speak with the voice because he isn’t sure if he should acknowledge it. And what if the voice’s listening to his conversation right now? So does that mean that the voice’s got ears? It’s an actual person?

“Strange. Communication is a two-way street, you know,” Baekhyun frowns and Jongin feels like laughing because this is what he’s found awkward about the whole situation?! Baekhyun’s mind works in mysterious ways.

“So it’s all in your head.” Kyungsoo gives up on the theatricalities and talks directly about Jongin. “That’s why you’ve been acting weird lately?” He looks grim now, and Jongin nods wordlessly.

“There’s a theory…” Baekhyun begins and Kyungsoo groans loudly, displeased. The thing is: Baekhyun is a pretty eccentric guy. He believes that Michael Jackson faked his own death and now lives in Paris, France. He also thinks that Paul McCartney has been dead for decades and was replaced by a doppelgänger, so it’s always a hit-or-miss when he brings up random facts. Baekhyun turns his full attention to Jongin, leaning forwards like he always does when he’s excited, “Some scientists define the Universe as a possibility. It means that at each decision we make, a brand-new Universe is created based on the result.”

“Baekhyun…” Kyungsoo censures him. He’s a law student and a pretty down-to-earth kind of guy, so he usually has no patience for ramblings or Baekhyun’s so-called fairy tales.

Baekhyun dismisses Kyungsoo’s protest with a flourish from his right hand, apathetic and still all eyes on Jongin. “Life is all about making decisions. What if you hadn’t gone out today? What would change in your life? Well, you may have stayed home today in another Universe,” Baekhyun stage whispers as if he’s unveiling humanity’s biggest secret. He then slams down loudly both his hands on the table, so Baekhyun-esque, “This rule applies to us all; Kyungsoo’s decisions and mine, too, create Universes. And so do your decisions.”

Jongin nods. It does make sense, though he doesn’t know how to apply it to his situation. 

“But what keeps all those Universes away from each other? Why can’t I communicate with my other version that has never met Kyungsoo and is now certainly happier without this party pooper in his life?” Baekhyun snickers at Kyungsoo, who simply rolls his eyes in exchange. “Here’s the thing: all Universes are set apart by dimensions; think of them like dark curtains. Curtains may wear out and get holes, right? And sometimes… We take a sneak peek through the opening,” Baekhyun’s lips spread into a wide grin as if everything is solved now that he’s given his explanation-slash-monologue.

Jongin tilts his head to the side, empty eyes giving away his confusion, “I don’t follow. What does that have to do with my st—my friend’s story?” Beside him, Kyungsoo snickers into his soda cup.

Baekhyun extends one of his hands over the table so he can pet Jongin’s hair. The gesture is pretty patronizing in Jongin’s opinion, but he’s never one to refuse caresses. “There may have been a breach in dimensions… And your friend’s mind is tied to someone from another Universe because of that,” Baekhyun guesses, retrieving his hand and sitting down for once properly.

Jongin purses his lips, thoughts tied in a tight knot. He didn’t quite catch Baekhyun’s idea and he honestly has the impression that it won’t help him much—blame it on his lazy neurons. Multiverse, Physics et cetera reminds him of combinatorics and decision trees and, really, Jongin’s a dance major who’s flushed down his mental toilet all math knowledge when he got into college.

Kyungsoo pushes his glasses over his nose bridge. He has that I’m-right-and-you’re-all-wrong look on, so Jongin knows what he’s going to say even before Kyungsoo opens his mouth, “I think you should see a doctor.”

Jongin throws his hands in the air, exasperated, “That’s all you ever say!”

*  *  *

No, Jongin doesn’t go back to the hospital. He fears that the beeping may blast if he ever steps into the building once again, so he would rather keep his distance from it. Since Baekhyun’s talk about dimensions has only confused him even further, Jongin decides to deal with it just like he’s done with many problems in his life—by disregarding it until it bites him in the ass. This method has a fantastic 0-time winning streak (as in having never worked successfully), but Jongin is a glass half-full dude who’s always willing to put it to the test and hope for the best.

So Jongin gets back to his usual routine—as usual when there’s someone whispering or wailing into his ear at random moments. He learns how to ignore the talking when he’s in public so people won’t think he’s crazy for startling out of a sudden. The voice doesn’t cry late at night as often as before, but it surely lets out a couple of deep sighs that tell Jongin that things aren’t quite all right yet on the other side.

Jongin is shaving his face, carefully sliding the razor across his skin, when he hears it.

Tomorrow, I’ll wait you…”

It sings.

The voice’s velvety richness bewitches Jongin and, even though it sounds hoarse and low as usual, it intonates the words crystal clear. Expectant, Jongin sets down the blade on the sink so he won’t take the risk of getting himself cut by drooling over the singing voice.

Maybe then tomorrow… Tomorrow, tomorrow…

There are long periods of silence in between the verses, and Jongin wonders if there’s any instrumental accompaniment to back the voice up which isn’t reaching him here in this dimension. For Jongin, it’s like listening to a peculiar, beatless a cappella—it still sounds good, nonetheless. It’s a slow song, a suave melody that would seep into Jongin’s bones and rid him of all fatigue at the end of a tiring day. He could see himself lying down in bed, listening to it as restfulness took over his body.

It’s simply breathtaking.

“Wow, what a great voice,” Jongin compliments, absorbed, after a couple of quiet seconds. He guesses the song has ended.

Wait a minute. So you can hear me like I hear you?

Jongin gapes like a fish, “Wait a minute, you hear me?!” He turns on the faucet to clean away the shaving foam from his face, after almost swallowing it down in shock.

If by that you mean that I hear you speak scattered words here and there, then yeah, that happens,” the tone is amicable as it explains good-naturedly, whereas Jongin has the feeling that he’s been caught with his hands in the cookie jar. A beat later, he adds politely, “Thanks for the compliment. How’s your ankle, by the way?

Such display of spontaneous care takes Jongin by surprise, who stutters, “I-it’s fine, thank you.” He gazes at the mirror, troubled feelings boiling into uneasiness. Jongin’s all by himself in the bathroom, he’s the only one in the mirror’s reflection; however, he doesn’t feel alone. Yes, hearing voices is pretty weird and Jongin’s been getting used to it in the last few days, but actively talking to someone who isn’t here… That’s just not natural. It definitely goes against some laws of Physics and it’s way more serious than a mere breach in the Universe or whatever Baekhyun’s theory is.

Hum… Hello?” The voice tentatively cuts into Jongin's worried thoughts, and just now he realizes he’s been suddenly quiet for some time.

“Oops, sorry. I’m still here.” Maybe Jongin should brush this guy off (well, his parents did teach him not to talk to strangers, you know) and pretend that nothing has happened, but he’s unable to turn a blind eye (or a deaf ear?) to him because, on top of that sexy voice, this stranger’s also cute?! They may have exchanged only, like, five words, but Jongin prides himself in being a great judge of character. He can spot nice people a mile away.

My name is Chanyeol. What about you?

It’s great to put a name to the voice, yet something in Jongin’s gut sets off his self-preservation instincts. “Call me Kai,” Jongin goes by his childhood nickname. His big sisters haven’t called him that in a long time, but he isn’t sure to give away his real name to a complete stranger, so it will have to do.

Kai,” Chanyeol echoes to commit it to memory, and Jongin places both hands on the edge of the sink to support his full body weight when his knees threaten to buckle. What a voice, really, what a voice.

“So… What have you heard from me so far?” Jongin asks, toning down his concern so he won’t look suspicious. Does Chanyeol overhear his amateur, out of tune singing whenever he washes the dishes? Or, worse, did he eavesdrop on Jongin's jerking off in the shower this morning? Fuck.

Nothing much,” Chanyeol replies easily, and Jongin can almost picture him shrugging.

What must Chanyeol look like? At first, a small part of Jongin feared he might be an old man due to that strong baritone, but he reckons Chanyeol is around his age, probably not much older than him. He sounds deeper than the sea, but what if his appearance doesn’t match his voice? Maybe Chanyeol’s one of those scrawny boys who shock you when they first open their mouth. Maybe he’s exactly how he sounds like, features filled with hard lines and a cranky face that has people avoiding looking his way. He’s so straightaway charismatic when talking that Chanyeol may just be a cinnamon roll though.

Now be honest with me…” Chanyeol begins, and Jongin freezes where he’s standing because he senses here comes Something Important with capital letters. “Do you listen to my snores when I go to sleep?” He jokes and Jongin laughs out loud in stupefaction because that’s not the question he expected.

However, Jongin’s chuckle melts away bit by bit as apprehension gradually bleeds into his brain. When Chanyeol goes to sleep… That’s when his cries start. Is he probing Jongin to figure out if he’s listened in on Chanyeol’s whimpers? Jongin chews on his lower lip as he stares at his conflicted face in the mirror, uncertain of whether he should tell Chanyeol the truth or not.

He then clears his throat, “Relax, you’re pretty quiet.” He tries to act naturally, but Jongin’s a bad liar and anyone who’s got two working ears can notice he’s anxious. 

Wow, no one’s ever called me that,” Chanyeol is clearly gullible as he giggles ostentatiously. His laughter is expansive and sort of exhibitionist, and Jongin bets Chanyeol is the type of guy who hits his friends nearby when he finds something funny. And, according to what he’s just said, Chanyeol’s very talkative too.

“So…” Jongin leaves the sink to sit down on the toilet lid, and lowers his head so his forehead rests on his knees. The rush of blood to his brain helps Jongin think rationally, and clear away the emotions that have been clouding his judgement.

So?” Chanyeol questions, and Jongin imagines himself pinned by eyes shining with interrogation.

Jongin looks around at the empty bathroom and its tiled walls, hopeless, “How do we fix this? How do we deal with this?”

You’ve barely known me and you already wanna get rid of me? You hurt me, Kai,” Chanyeol snickers at his own joke, so dramatic. He probably uses humor to cope with his problems.

“You got me, Chanyeol,” Jongin is sarcastic, resisting the urge to roll his eyes since there’s no one to see him. However, he soon sobers up because someone must straighten things up in here, “You’re a cool dude, I don’t wanna ignore you, but this is all too weird, don’t you think? Unless you’re used to hearing voices in your head?” Jongin lets some irony slip out in his speech.

He expects Chanyeol to feel offended at his cold logic, but the guy still laughs good-heartedly when he answers, “Ha! I wish I could hear your sweet voice all the time.” The praise startles Jongin, but Chanyeol resumes speaking as if he kindly complimented strangers every day, “What do you suggest we do, then?

The quick change of subject has Jongin dizzy, but he makes an effort to correct his sitting posture on the toilet, back as straight as a ruler when he offers his plan in a businesslike manner, “For the meantime, since we have no idea why this is happening, we should choose some signs to speak. So we can still talk to each other without people thinking we’re crazy or something.”

Oh! It’s just like using a walkie-talkie!” Chanyeol realizes with amazement.

“Exactly!” Jongin nods enthusiastically because Chanyeol’s animation is contagious like that. He doesn’t have the heart to tell Chanyeol that walkie-talkies didn’t even cross his mind when he came up with this idea one second ago. “So when we want to talk to each other, we can call our names out and wait for a confirmation before speaking,” Jongin explains.

Great idea.”

How can two words sound so candid? Maybe Jongin wishes to be complimented by Chanyeol’s deep voice more often. His ego does need a stroke once in a while. “Thank you,” Jongin blushes, and he’s thankful that Chanyeol isn’t able to see him. “When we finish talking, we can say just—”

Over and out!” Chanyeol breaks in eagerly, and Jongin raises his eyebrows at the suddenness.

“...Bye. Or over and out. That’s fine too,” Jongin adds against his will. They could act like normal people and simply bid farewell, but if Chanyeol insists on playing cop... Well, Jongin doesn’t mind indulging Chanyeol's childish wishes, if that means he’ll be rewarded with Chanyeol’s pleased giggles.

We can also let each other know when we’re accidentally overhearing something private, don’t you think?” Chanyeol turns serious, bass-like voice buzzing in Jongin’s mind. That’s as stern as he’s ever sounded since they first spoke to each other. Once more, Jongin asks himself if there’s any connection to Chanyeol’s midnight cries. Or maybe Chanyeol has actually eavesdropped on Jongin in the shower today. He shelves that possibility away so he won’t embarrass himself any further.

“You think this would work out?” Jongin is skeptical. “Like, let’s suppose you’re banging your girlfriend. I’ll just chip in like ‘hey, dude! Just so you know, I’m hearing everything’? That sounds awkward to me,” he paints an absurd situation in an attempt to get a laugh out of Chanyeol and lighten up the mood.

That would never happen 'cause I don’t have a girlfriend. But I get your point,” Chanyeol argues and there’s no hint of fun in his tone, but he gives in to Jongin’s reasoning.

Jongin could relish in being right, but he’s too busy smiling triumphantly. He’s just found out Chanyeol is single, awesome. Mentioning some girlfriend in passing always works to get information out of people. When Jongin speaks, there’s no trace of his satisfaction, “We’re two grown adults who know how to respect people’s privacy, so we can trust each other, right? But if I ever bother you, Chanyeol, please do tell me.” Jongin’s voice is warm in the end.

You would never bother me, Kai,” Chanyeol whispers assuredly and Jongin almost gets whiplash for he didn’t expect that answer at all. Jongin isn’t reading too much into this, is he? Is Chanyeol flirting with him or he’s one of those people who are just too kind to everyone else? “What? Let me help you with that,” Chanyeol says out of the blue, and Jongin is about to ask what’s happening when Chanyeol tells him hurriedly, “Gotta go, Kai, over and out!

The bathroom is plunged into silence.

*  *  *

Jongin loves the crunchy sound that his sneakers make when he steps on pebbles. Monggu’s short nails also make curt noises as he bounces around, wagging proudly his fluffy tail. Jongin must give a couple of tugs on his leash so the dog stops bossily pulling him as he sniffs random plants, some trash cans and light posts.

Kai?” Chanyeol’s voice echoes in his head, and he promptly halts his stroll, much to Monggu’s discontent.

“Hey?” Jongin asks while he gets his cell phone from his hoodie’s pocket to pause the music playing through his earphones.

Just wondering how you are. You’ve been cursing a lot lately,” Chanyeol chuckles like he’s shy—perhaps he fears he’s too nosy? Jongin finds his concern just adorable, though.

He laughs, raising one hand to scratch sheepishly at the back of his head. “Sorry about that. I usually get like this when I get the choreo wrong for my final assignment,” Jongin thinks back to his late night rehearsals fueled by coffee and stress. “But I’m fine, actually,” he assures Chanyeol sweetly so he won’t worry. Despite his throaty tone, Chanyeol naturally emits some sort of cheerfulness mixed with attentiveness, so Jongin can’t help but fall for his charms and feel this odd need to protect him at all costs.

Choreo? You dance?” There’s evident interest in his voice, like Chanyeol isn’t asking out of politeness. Really, this guy is just too kind.

Jongin sits down on a bench nearby, “Yeah, and it's the end of semester now, so everyone’s a pile of nerves, myself included. What abo—” Jongin cuts himself when he sees the brown poodle walk away, and then he realizes he’s let go of the dog’s leash, “Monggu! Get back here!” Jongin scolds the poodle, stretching his whole body as he quickly extends his hand to get a hold of the end of the leash before it falls to the ground.

Who is Monggu and why is he in trouble?” Chanyeol is curious.

“Monggu’s my dog. I’m walking him in the park, but this little guy wants to run away from me,” Jongin answers, leash now in hand. He places Monggu on his lap and assorts caresses on his snout, ears and back to make it up for the reprimand. Monggu pushes his head against Jongin’s hand, changing from upset to happy as fast as any dog would.

Oh, I love dogs! I bet he’s cute,” Chanyeol bolts energetically. You’re cuter, Jongin thinks to himself, biting his own tongue so he won’t let the words out. “I have one, too, her name’s—

“Zzart?” Jongin guesses, putting the pieces together after overhearing scattered coos from Chanyeol in the last week.

Exactly! Oh, you hear me playing with her, don’t you?” Chanyeol is timid out of the blue, “My friends tell me I’m too loud.” And then Jongin feels like cursing at whoever has censured Chanyeol’s boyish charisma.

“Yes, you are, but I like it,” he adds so Chanyeol won’t take it as criticism. “What does the name Zzart mean, though?”

It’s short for Mozart. Found the name cool, you know,” Chanyeol replies.

Jongin frowns, “You are aware that Mozart was a dude, right?”

Chanyeol answers a beat later, voice as low as a whisper, “...I may have taken her for a male puppy at first.” Jongin dissolves into laughter automatically, and Chanyeol clicks his tongue, “Stop laughing at me!

“Sorry, sorry,” Jongin wipes away some tears with his free hand, voice still woggly from holding in more giggles. He prefers to change the subject, “So what are you doing right now? You get, like, super quiet sometimes.”

Hmm, I was probably playing the guitar,” Chanyeol sounds pensive.

“Do we have here a rock fan who gets all them ladies with his guitar skills?” Jongin throws the bait as he waits expectantly for Chanyeol’s answer.

I don’t know much about ‘ladies’,” Jongin can literally hear the quotes, “but some guys really dig the guitar.”

So they play for the same team? The corners of Jongin’s lips turn upwards in a satisfied smile. “Is that so? Maybe I should take some guitar lessons and see if it works for me then,” he wonders if Chanyeol can hear the incentive in Jongin’s voice.

Would be glad to teach you,” Chanyeol offers, and is he goading Jongin?

Maybe the tables have turned and Jongin is the one who’s taken the bait.

“Hmm, I wouldn’t mind calling you teacher,” Jongin teases boldly.

A student-teacher kink, really?” Chanyeol tries to sound judgemental, but there’s a hint of a joke in his voice. “You should…

And then Chanyeol’s voice drowns out like he’s underwater until it fades away and Jongin’s mind is completely silent once more. It’s only Jongin and his own thoughts in his head, something so ordinary but so unlike his last turbulent days.

“Chanyeol? Chanyeol?” Jongin still calls out, and feels a bit stupid when there’s no reply. What was Chanyeol going to tell him? Curiosity eats Jongin up and he tsks, disgruntled that his flirting just got cockblocked by the Universe, great.

*  *  *

Jongin presents his final performance to his dance class and passes the test with flying colors. Despite all his cursing and strain back at the rehearsals, Jongin doesn’t make a single mistake and prides himself in his excellence—even so, he should have worked harder on his arm angles because they didn’t come out as clean as he wanted.

When Jongin voices this thought to Chanyeol, he gets back a snort, “You were perfect, I’m sure of that.”

“You can’t even see me!” Jongin objects, rolling his eyes as he takes two steps at a time walking down the stairs to the subway station. He has his earphones on so people will think he’s on a phone call.

Yeah, but you are clearly one of those hard-working and perfectionist students who are never satisfied with their own performance,” Chanyeol’s remark hits the bull's-eye and leaves Jongin flabbergasted because is he that obvious? Kyungsoo tells him exactly that all the time, but he’s known Jongin for ages, whereas Chanyeol’s just a random dude babbling in his mind.

Jongin refrains a pleased smile as he walks into the car. “That’s not true!” He whines like a kid for the pure satisfaction of not giving in too quickly.

Anyhow, Jongin is actually grateful for Chanyeol’s prying, since their talks make everything so much easier for him in the dead week. Previous semesters had been more demanding because all Jongin could do was study and practice without a break until his brain short-circuited every night before bed. However, now there are Chanyeol’s casual talks and they’re the perfect opportunity to rest and stop Jongin—even if it’s just for a second—from worrying himself over exams and assignments. It’s a very welcomed breath of fresh air.

And that’s how they’ve gotten to the point where Chanyeol can read Jongin like an open book. As talks come and go, Jongin is dismayed when he learns about Chanyeol’s aversion to dramas, “I can’t believe you have never watched Boys Over Flowers! That’s a classic!”

I know, that Lee Minho guy was, like, everywhere in 2009. Why does he always play assholes, by the way? He’s a complete douchebag in Dara’s music video too,” Chanyeol complains, and Jongin pictures him gesticulating spaciously with his hands as he makes his point. Does Chanyeol have small or big hands? Or are they about average?

On the other hand, Chanyeol literally worships Marvel movies and you’re in deep trouble if you insult Iron Man in front of him, “People call him narcissistic based on only one movie! His character arc is perfect when you take into account the Avengers’ storyline; Tony Stark’s got flaws and he learns how to be a better person. That’s how actual human beings work.”

As days pass by, Jongin eavesdrops more and more on Chanyeol’s routine. He often mumbles cryptic numbers in the afternoon and Jongin hasn’t gathered the courage to question it directly yet because he feels like it isn’t his place to intrude like that—although Chanyeol wouldn’t take offense in anything Jongin did, being the angel he is. And the cries… They’re still there—they’ve been subdued, for sure, but Chanyeol still sobs from time to time, especially at nighttime.

At moments like this, Jongin asks himself if he’s been pried on as much as he himself does. Did Chanyeol overhear him teasing Kyungsoo for not having the balls to ask his crush out? Does he laugh quietly at the jokes Jongin tells Baekhyun? Jongin would like to know if his reading out loud flash cards disturbs Chanyeol’s guitar sessions. It’s weird that they can hear each other at arbitrary times, so they come to learn private things, yet they don’t know for sure what’s happening on the other side. It’s like trying to see through a thin curtain—the fabric is dense enough to fog your sight, but still see-through so that you can take a peek at the window view.

“The Grammy sucks ass. How come The Weeknd didn’t receive a single nomination?” Jongin asks out loud, and there’s a drawl to his voice due to the effects of alcohol. He’s out for drinks with Baekhyun and Kyungsoo at their favorite bar to celebrate summer break.

Baekhyun, who had been inhaling the fries they ordered, swallows them down fast so he can whine bitterly, “Dude, Justin Bieber was nominated in every pop category possible when Changes is clearly an R&B album.”

Kyungsoo hums in agreement, cup of soju in hand, “Changes is so good, I hope it wins at least one award.”

Jongin eyes them both with disgust. Why did he think it would be a good idea to be friends with beliebers? Now he has to put up with preposterous opinions such as these. “You both clearly haven’t listened to After Hours as I told you so,” Jongin points fingers accusingly, “because otherwise you would know what’s real R&B.”

Everybody’s talking about The Weeknd but Lady Gaga was also totally snubbed by the Grammy. C’mon, Chromatica should have been nominated for Album of the Year!” Chanyeol chimes in his head, his exclamation funnily filled with outrage.

“Hum… I disagree,” Jongin purses his lips to refrain a disapproving wince. “Chromatica’s just a generic dance-pop album that everybody has fallen in love with because we’ve been waiting for Gaga to come back to pop for God knows how long.”

Kyungsoo’s expressive eyes are filled with caution when he glances at Jongin over the bottles of soju, “Uh, who are you talking with, Jongin?”

Baekhyun lets out an indignant shrill at the same time, “How dare you call Chromatica a ‘generic dance-pop album’?!”

Realization dawns upon Kyungsoo and his gaze hardens, “Jongin…”

Kai, you there?” Chanyeol asks, messing up Jongin's thoughts, and that’s too much for him to handle.

“Over and out,” Jongin utters the words as softly as he can so Chanyeol won’t take it personally.

“Earth to Jongin, what the fuck was that?” Baekhyun frowns at him belatedly, but he isn’t as worried as Kyungsoo, for he soon resumes eating all the fries just fine.

“The thing is…” Jongin grimaces as soon as he starts speaking. Man, what if Chanyeol is still listening to him? It’s awkward to talk about someone when they’re eavesdropping. It makes Jongin self-conscious. He mentally raises the volume up of that familiar beep so it will drown out his own thoughts and help him pretend he’s on his own. “The voice answered me a couple of days ago and… He’s a cool dude,” Jongin leaves at that; no need to tell sordid details such as Jongin crushing on a guy he’s never seen before in his life.

“So there’s communication. It makes sense,” Baekhyun reasons, mouth full of fries.

Kyungsoo’s displeased reaction contrasts with his friend’s excitement, “So he’s an actual person?”

“It looks like that,” Jongin nods, lowering his eyes to his cup of soju. The alcohol is welcoming and doesn’t judge him, differently from Kyungsoo’s cold features and sharp eyes.

“And where is this guy?” Kyungsoo questions, an eyebrow raised in challenge.

“Soo, that’s not how it works. Jongin isn’t Edward Cullen or something; he doesn’t read minds. Everything points to some sort of transdimensional mind connection”, Baekhyun theorizes, and Jongin is impressed that he’s perfectly pronounced so many complex words in one go while drunk.

Kyungsoo makes a face, “It may be dangerous and—”

“Baekhyun’s now my best friend,” Jongin pouts childishly when he interrupts Kyungsoo’s lecture in an attempt to lighten up the mood. However, Kyungsoo is still staring daggers at him, always the devil's advocate instigating debates like a dog with a bone.

Jongin is about to consider complimenting Justin Bieber (yuck!) just to make Kyungsoo smile when Baekhyun has a moment of soberness, “Everything will be all right, chill out, Soo.”

Something about the unexpected assuredness in Baekhyun’s voice convinces Kyungsoo, and his tense shoulders relax visibly when he grabs his own cup of soju to take a sip from it. Jongin blows a kiss to Baekhyun’s direction in gratitude, but he slaps the air before his face as if rejecting Jongin’s affection.

There’s an air of superiority to Baekhyun when he justifies himself, “I still can’t believe you lied to me when you said you enjoyed Chromatica. You’re a disgrace to the gay community.”

Jongin protests acidly, “I’m gay, I’m not deaf.”

*  *  *

Jongin may be some good centimeters taller than Kyungsoo, but his roommate practically throws him on the bed as if he weighs nothing. Any other day, Jongin would have protested against being manhandled, but now he’s too lazy and groggy because of the excess of alcohol. Jongin’s mind is light, as if up in the clouds, whereas his body is heavy like a rock, anchoring him to the mattress.

Jongin stares at the ceiling like he’s done so many nights before, eyes tracing the indistinguishable shadows as he waits for his lethargy to turn into sleepiness. Jongin isn’t tired per se; he’s simply sluggish—maybe it’s the combination of enthusiasm from summer break with his currently drunken state. Clad in skinny jeans and a white tank top, Jongin’s still wearing the clothing he’s chosen minutiously intending to pick someone up in the bar. However, he couldn’t bring himself to set his eyes on anyone there—Jongin doesn’t know what happened, it’s just that no one in the place sparked his interest.

He’s about to close his eyes to trick his mind into sleeping when he hears a soft groan. At first, Jongin dismisses it as one of Chanyeol’s usual cries—it’s nighttime, after all—, but then it grows into a full-on sexual moan, raspy voice resounding powerfully inside Jongin’s head. Nope, Chanyeol’s definitely not crying—in suffering, that is.

The sounds are… Quite something. Chanyeol’s low tone is potent when he sighs and howls shamelessly—he’s extremely vocal and Jongin can’t help appreciating it. Now he wants to focus on that voice, and that voice alone. So Jongin pushes the ubiquitous beep to the back of his mind, all ears on Chanyeol’s whimpers and whines. Jongin asks himself what Chanyeol must be doing to wail so much. He doesn’t groan out any names nor instructions, so Jongin reckons he’s all by himself. Is Chanyeol deliberately teasing himself? Is he avoiding his sweet spots so his expectation will drag out? This possibility has Jongin enthralled by it.

Idleness lingers in Jongin’s motions when he brings one hand to the fly of his pants. His fingers trace tentatively along the zipper, not planning to undo it anytime soon.

Somewhere in his mind, Jongin is very impressed at Chanyeol’s endurance—he’s sounded desperate enough to be on the verge of an orgasm twice already, to no avail. He’s still whining, needy, when Jongin at last presses his hand down his soft dick. Jongin closes his eyes to improve his hearing, not actually putting his mind to how his fingers shift the pressure against his awakening erection as he pays attention to Chanyeol’s somewhat growlish keens. It’s astounding how that voice as deep as thunder can produce such acute, high interjections.

Jongin focuses his grinding especially on the tip, which is so sensitive to the touch even through his underwear and jeans. Although he’s a bit smashed, Jongin still has half a mind to clench his teeth not to make any sound. A brief, rare moment of silence allows him to take note of Kyungsoo’s quiet snores in the bedroom closeby, and Jongin realizes his own fast breathing has turned loud enough to drown out a bit of Chanyeol’s cries in his mind.

Finally acknowledging how shaken he is, Jongin finds strength in himself to break the fatigue and kneel on the mattress. He grabs his pillow and folds it in half before placing it in the vacant space between his legs. His thighs grip around the softness, and Jongin’s fingers squeeze the cotton pillow case as he presses it against his crotch as hard as he can.

Jongin closes his eyes and starts to thrust leisurely against the pillow, hips working at a slow pace because why rush it? He humps with precise moves to apply pressure along his whole hardening dick. Jongin’s skinny jeans are the cherry on top, the thick fabric getting him all worked up whereas the fly seam drags along his cock creating the perfect friction. Depending on the angle, the zipper rubs against his foreskin through his underwear, and it has Jongin’s toes curling in pleasure as he manages to choke down his wheezes and groans. 

Chanyeol suddenly lets out a particularly loud gasp that has Jongin so urgently hot. Biting his lips to stop himself from moaning, Jongin pictures Chanyeol panting against his ear. What would it feel like to have Chanyeol's hot breath hitting his nape, his neck, his chest? Jongin wishes he could leave hickeys across Chanyeol's whole body—on his shoulders, on his stomach, on his thighs…

The jeans start to feel uncomfortable as soon as Jongin’s cock fully hardens. He opens his eyes as he halts his moves, clicking his tongue in annoyance when he undoes the button and fly to make more room for his erection. Settled inside Jongin’s underwear, the head of his dick peeks out a bit beyond the waistband, skin angry red. Jongin thumbs at the precome there and sighs deeply at the touch, his other hand quickly pushing the underwear all the way down to allow himself to stroke his entire erection as he pleases.

Jongin pants briefly when his cock’s exposed to the chilly air of the night, denim and briefs bundled midway his thighs. His touch is warm as he fondles his balls and perineum, free hand snaking under his tank top to tease his nipples with dexterous fingers. Jongin can feel it—he can feel the temperature rising fast, like a mercury thermometer about to break due to the excruciating heat.

Chanyeol’s whining turns into a sequence of short shrills, and something tells Jongin he’s close to his orgasm—and he’ll allow himself to come this time for real. So Jongin grips his cock, fisting it hard and without a break to match the rhythm of Chanyeol’s wails. As he pumps his dick in his ring of fingers, his free hand trails around his chest, caressing the spots Jongin knows that rile him up and pinching his nipples from time to time to keep him on his toes.

How is Chanyeol giving himself pleasure right now? The question lies in the back of Jongin’s mind and sheer curiosity nags him because he needs to know. Is Chanyeol riding a dildo? Is he fingering himself? Or perhaps he’s simply jacking off? If Chanyeol likes to be teased, Jongin could give it to him all right. He could stroke Chanyeol’s foreskin until he sobbed in sensitivity, and finger him as he came to have Chanyeol sweetly crying in overstimulation.

Fantasies fuel Jongin and he thrusts brutally into his fist, balls dragging along the softness of the pillow in between his legs and piling up his satisfaction. Jongin’s mind is flooded with Chanyeol’s desperate moans and the constant beep, which suddenly gains strength in the background, rising until it overwhelms Jongin’s reasoning and he can barely think. He can’t bring himself to control the noise right now, skin hot and impending pleasure, so Jongin just ignores it as he comes at last.

Jongin arcs his back gracefully, throwing his head to look up to the ceiling with blurred vision—spurs of spunk are caught by his hand so he won’t get his sheets or clothes soiled. A ragged breath falls from his lips as Jongin comes to his senses, beep now controlled in his head and sighs strangled up his throat.

Meanwhile, Chanyeol is mewling into his ear quietly, coming down from his own high. “Kai...” He pants out with a spent voice.

*  *  *

As clichéd as it may sound, Jongin wakes up with the feeling that last night was just an insane (and extremely wet) dream. However, there are dirty paper tissues on his bedside table, and Jongin’s muscles are all loose like he’s melting on his bed—a sensation that only a post-orgasm nap can provide him. So the evidence is basically undeniable.

Surprisingly, he doesn’t feel guilty for prying on Chanyeol during such an intimate moment. What leaves a bitter aftertaste in Jongin’s mouth, though, is the questions hammering inside his brain—there are just too many of them. Did Chanyeol overhear Jongin yesterday? Did Chanyeol know that Jongin was listening to him? Is there a way to get to know Chanyeol for real—as in person? Interrogation points throb within his skull, annoyance increased tenfold thanks to the relentless beep in the background.

Okay, maybe Jongin’s too hungover for this.

He crawls out of bed and drags his feet to the kitchen to get Advil and a glass of water—Jongin’s grateful that Kyungsoo’s out doing God-knows-what, otherwise he would have surely made fun of zombie-Jongin. As he watches the spoon of sugar dissolve little by little into the darkness of his cup of coffee, Jongin tries not to acknowledge his mental agitation, but it’s hard when he’s biting anxiously at his nails and his mind’s coiled up in turmoil despite his strong body fatigue.

Jongin doesn’t know what to do. He’s split and can’t make a single decision of his own when it comes to Chanyeol. The whole situation is just too absurd for his head to handle, even though he’s been adjusting naturally to it because Chanyeol’s charms are irresistible and daily life gets so easier when he’s there to shoot the breeze. Jongin’s gut feeling sounds alarms—and he isn’t talking about the mysterious, annoying beep in his head—whenever he speaks to Chanyeol since this isn’t normal, he isn’t supposed to have people in his mind.

That same uncertainty led Jongin to give his childhood nickname to Chanyeol. The omission has Jongin slightly guilty because Chanyeol doesn’t even know his true name, and Jongin simply can’t back away. Chanyeol’s too good; Jongin definitely doesn’t deserve him. Even so, Jongin is greedy—so, so greedy—and he can’t turn a blind eye to the magnetic pull that he feels towards Chanyeol, although it’s purely mindly. It’s an indescribable connection that makes Jongin feel special and draws him back to Chanyeol every single time.

The attraction isn’t rational, Jongin is aware of that, but what’s been reasonable in his life for the last two weeks? He’s tired of waiting for something that he doesn’t even know if it will actually happen. Jongin means, what is this so-called something? He himself doesn’t know, he’s completely in the dark. And Jongin is hot with desire, too, and apparently Chanyeol has been provoking him and he needs to know if this is mutual. If by chance it is, then Jongin needs to act on it. He needs to meet Chanyeol. But he doesn’t know how.

Where the fuck is the instruction manual?

Jongin has just put bread in the toaster when his cell phone buzzes on the counter. It’s a message from Baekhyun.

Byun Baekhyun

10:56 AM: you alive?

Jongin whines loudly because it sucks to pretend to be a functional human being when you’re hungover. He squints at the screen as he tries to type something coherent when the keyboard keys seem so jumbled and tiny through his blurred eyes.

Kim Jongin

10:56 AM: tryhg to

Byun Baekhyun

10:57 AM: such a baby 🐻

10:57 AM: still cant handle alcohol

Kim Jongin

10:58 AM: f u

10:59 AM: [voice message] Do you have anything important to say or you texted just to mock me?

Byun Baekhyun

11:00 AM: srry bae

11:00 AM: wanna go to the movies?

Kim Jongin

11:01 AM: dnt know

11:01 AM: still dead to the world 💀

Byun Baekhyun

11:02 AM: cmon! were on vacationnnn

11:02 AM: whats the use of taking a break if we dont enjoy it?

Jongin’s fingers hover over the display. He intended to dismiss Baekhyun once and for all—his friend invites him to outings all the time, so no harm done. However… What if Baekhyun is the one with the instruction manual?

Kim Jongin

11:03 AM: lets go 5pm or sth

11:04 AM: maybe ill live till there

Byun Baekhyun

11:04 AM: drama queeeen

11:05 AM: see u there

Jongin puts away his cell phone, the brightness of the display starting to hurt his eyes. Thankfully, the toasts pop ready as if on cue, and the prospect of finally getting some food in his system lightens Jongin’s spirit.

Kai?...” A hesitant voice echoes in his head. Jongin’s brain feels as if it’s been smashed by a meat pounder, coherent thoughts torn to pieces, but his mind has a soft spot for that voice. That person.

“I’m here, Chany,” Jongin calls out gently, and the nickname slips out due to his lack of brain-mouth filter. He asks himself if Chanyeol minds it. Nah, sunshine and rainbow Chanyeol isn’t petty.

Great,” Chanyeol answers promptly, yet goes quiet all of a sudden. Jongin waits patiently for his next words as he spreads butter on the toasts. “Uh… Sorry for yesterday,” Chanyeol says at last, and Jongin freezes.

The knife halts over the bread as Jongin’s whole body turns motionless in shock, doubt and a bit of fear. If Chanyeol is apologizing for being loud last night… Then he knows Jongin eavesdropped on him? Jongin prefers to play dumb, What for?”

I got you in trouble with your friends, didn’t I?” Chanyeol’s tone is filled with regret, but Jongin’s mind is too busy as his mental gears turn and clank. With your friends… So Chanyeol’s talking about him interrupting Jongin’s talk with Kyungsoo and Baekhyun. Oh.

Jongin laughs way louder for his migraine to bear, and relief mixed with expectation gets to his head and suddenly he can’t tame his tongue, “As if you’d get me in trouble.”

Chanyeol snorts, “Is that a challenge?” There’s definitely innuendo to it, and Jongin’s head reels back in startlement.

“I don’t know…” He plays coy, “Do you think you can mess with me?” It’s an amazing comeback considering Jongin’s hungover state, but he ruins everything when he chokes on the last word, and it grows into a full-on cough attack.

Rough night, eh?” Chanyeol teases when Jongin’s coughs lessen, and Jongin’s body is tense all over again. Chanyeol knows. He fucking knows and he’s playing with Jongin, that fucker. Before he can come up with a witty reply, Chanyeol asks, “You fine?

Sunshine and rainbow Chanyeol is back and Jongin can’t keep up with all these changes, jeez. Maybe he’s reading too much into this. Or his hungover mind is playing tricks on him.

“Yeah, I just… choked on my own saliva.” Great flirting right there, Jongin, he thinks to himself after such lame answer. He places the dirty knife inside the kitchen sink and takes a big bite from the buttered toast. Jongin’s hungrier than he thought.

Chanyeol giggles shortly, “It happens to me all the time. Maybe it’s because I speak too fast?” It’s seriously adorable how Chanyeol is able to get any subject going. It makes Jongin feel less stupid. “I’m gonna rehearse now with the band so maybe you’ll hear me singing,” Chanyeol tells him a beat later. “Is that fine, Kai?” This is Chanyeol being attentive; he didn’t ask it just to be polite.

“Sure, don’t mind me. I love your voice,” Jongin winces at his slip of the tongue, words sounding too candid for his taste.

Listening to Chanyeol’s shy laugh is worth it, though. “I know you do. See you later! Oops, hear you later. Over and out!” Jongin catches himself laughing at Chanyeol’s silly joke. Fuck, he’s so whipped.

He takes his cup of coffee in hands and takes a sip from it. Jongin gags, disgusted, as he sets it down on the counter.

The coffee has gone cold.

*  *  *

“You seem better,” Baekhyun regards him with caring eyes when they meet at the shopping mall. He slings one arm around Jongin's shoulders and then bumps their heads together and, oh boy, Jongin definitely wouldn’t be able to do that seven hours ago—unless he wished for his brain to combust.

“Advil did its magic,” Jongin shrugs at ease, one hand resting on Baekhyun’s waist.

Truth be told, Jongin spent most of the afternoon lying on the bed, eyes closed and dead to the world, as he listened to Chanyeol’s singing. He went through the most diverse artists; he covered Scorpions and Linkin Park and when Jongin presumed Chanyeol would stick to rock bands, he sang Pharrell Williams and Post Malone and even Billie Eilish. Chanyeol’s voice is amazing as always, and Jongin can’t help but fall over and over again for his low tone that always sends pleasing shivers down his spine.

“What movie do you wanna watch?” Baekhyun gestures to the floor-to-ceiling movie posters, getting Jongin out of his trance.

“Hmm, what about Black Widow?” Jongin reads out loud the first movie title that catches his attention.

Baekhyun tilts his head to the side, “I never pegged you for a Marvel fan.” Jongin blushes because his observation reminds him of Chanyeol and maybe Jongin’s casual decision isn’t that casual. Baekhyun eyes his flush curiously, but he doesn’t comment on it, “Sure, Nini.”

Jongin feels shy to acknowledge Chanyeol as a person and not a weird supernatural phenomenon so it takes him time to have the guts to get it straight with Baekhyun. And it magically happens when they’re in line at KFC for snacks before the movie.

“Baek… Would you help me with something?” He asks tentatively, timid voice almost drowned out by the background noise typical of food courts.

Something in Jongin’s tone makes Baekhyun suddenly turn serious, as if flipping on a switch. “Tell me, Nini,” he replies, all eyes on Jongin.

“You see… All these things about dimensions et cetera…” Jongin hesitates before finally cutting to the chase. “Do you think I can get to meet with Chanyeol?”

“Who’s Chanyeol?” Baekhyun frowns, and a second later his blank face shines in realization, “Oh, he’s the voice guy?” Jongin promptly nods. “Nini, I won’t say it’s impossible, but it may be tricky,” Jongin bites his lower lip—partly due to his anxiety, partly to refrain an optimistic smile. “Have you noticed anything weird about your connection with him? 'Cause, like, we could try to exploit the breach? You’re already connected mentally, so it would be easier to get you to the other side,” Baekhyun sounds like he himself doesn’t know what he’s saying, but he’s the best shot Jongin’s got at the moment, so it will have to do.

“I think everything’s pretty normal…” Jongin whispers because he doesn’t want people to overhear their talk. “Sometimes our connection fails and we stop listening to each other mid-conversation, you know, but it’s common. Sometimes the beeping gets super loud and that’s fucking annoying, but—”

Baekhyun interrupts him, wide-eyed in surprise, “What? What beeping?”

“I never told you about the beep?”

Baekhyun purses his lips, “That’s the first time I hear about it.”

“It’s—”

“Next!” The clerk cuts them off when the queue goes on and it’s their turn. Jongin and Baekhyun order their food and take the tray to a table on a secluded corner of the food court. Jongin attacks the fried chicken right away when he sits down, because he still hasn’t restored his nutrients for the day.

Jongin’s still entranced by the food when Baekhyun whines at his distraction, “Tell me, I wanna know!”

“Sorry.” Jongin wipes his mouth clean with a napkin before resuming, “As I was saying, when I first heard Chanyeol’s voice, I also started to listen to a constant beep in the background of my brain.”

“What kind of beep?” Baekhyun questions, picking a piece of fried chicken from the tray between the two of them.

“I don’t know. A machine’s? All beeps sound the same to me,” Jongin waves in indifference with his free hand, not understanding Baekhyun’s concern. “I can ignore it just fine most of the time, but on some occasions it gets really loud, it’s awful.” Jongin takes the opportunity to vent out because he hasn’t felt his head is his own for weeks now and Chanyeol isn’t the one to blame for it—that beep can be pretty nerve-wracking despite Jongin’s domination.

“Like when?” Baekhyun is invested in the talk to such an extent that he even stops eating.

“Eh…” Jongin thinks back to his late night orgasm, but he would rather not share his masturbation habits with Baekhyun. “Once, at the hospital… Kyungsoo made me go there because of my ankle,” he quickly explains when Baekhyun’s forehead wrinkles in confusion at the mention of the hospital. “The beep literally blasted in my head, it was as if I were deaf or something, and I couldn’t hear anything else,” Jongin grimaces at the unpleasant memory. He still remembers vividly the echo piercing through his ears.

“Maybe it has something to do with the hospital?” Baekhyun props his chin in his hand, elbow resting on the table. “My guess is that the dimensions weaken if you’re in the same place at the same time. If the only thing that sets you apart is the Universe… Then maybe you can meet each other in the same realm. The dimensions would merge and you would finally see each other.”

A line appears between Jongin’s brows at the bitter idea of leaving it all to chance and ending up failing. This thought doesn’t please him at all, and Jongin voices his opinion, “Maybe as in ‘it probably won’t happen and you’re just getting my hopes up’ or as in ‘there’s a fifty-fifty chance’?”

Baekhyun nibbles on his bottom lip, soft eyes and understanding coloring his features, “I think it’s a risky bet. The matter at hand is: are you willing to go all out, Jongin?”

Jongin sighs in response, but there’s fire in his gaze when he glances at Baekhyun.

Baekhyun sees something in Jongin that pleases him, for a smile soon curves his lips, “Tell me, Nini. What’s your take on love motels?”

*  *  *

A rich baritone wakes Jongin up. It sings verses filled with feelings; the voice cracks sometimes due to emotion and Jongin can’t help but appreciate some poetry in these small flaws. Chanyeol’s melody awakens Jongin’s conscience little by little and, when he realizes, he’s admiring the moonlight streaming through the thin, pale curtains of his bedroom window.

I don’t ever worry about nothin’... I don’t ever worry…” Chanyeol almost whispers the last verses, his voice fading away, and that’s when Jongin knows the song has ended.

He sighs in contentment.

Sorry. Did I wake you up?” Chanyeol asks kindly, apologies probably on the tip of his tongue.

“Yeah…” Jongin doesn’t bother lying out of politeness; they’re both past that stage. “But I always enjoy listening to your singing, so it's worth it,” it’s easier to compliment Chanyeol like this, when Jongin’s in the dark and there are no eyes on him. Still, a shy blush insists on tingeing his cheeks, and Jongin presses one of the sides of his burning face against the pillow.

You flatter me,” Chanyeol’s humble, of course. He usually either refracts or dismisses Jongin’s praisal.

“I'm just being honest,” Jongin shrugs, then realizes a beat later, “I don't know this song. Do you write original lyrics?”

Yes,” somehow such a lonely word is uttered with a hint of bashfulness. “Did you like it?” There’s still some hesitancy to Chanyeol’s question.

Jongin recognizes it; it’s the same feeling he himself gets when he does an original number. It’s completely different to give a new take on someone else’s work when compared to creating from scratch something to call your own. When you put your heart to a creation, it’s like it becomes part of you—and that’s so personal. You imprint your thoughts and intimacy to that piece, and showing it to somebody is as private as laying bare your soul. Jongin now feels more intrusive than he did last night when he heard Chanyeol’s moans.

Jongin bites his bottom lip, a habit of his when he gets nervous. “It’s…” He’s run out of compliments because there's no word in the dictionary that will ever convey his opinion precisely when it comes to Chanyeol’s voice and how it simply moves Jongin. “It’s wishful thinking, isn’t it?” He blurts out.

What do you mean?” Chanyeol is clearly taken aback by Jongin’s answer.

Jongin regrets his big mouth almost instantly. “It’s just that…” He panics a bit (or rather a lot), “I don’t mean to sound pretentious, please, don’t tell me to go fuck myself.”

I would never say that to you, Kai, I pinky-swear,” Chanyeol assures him with a sweet tone, as expected. But Jongin still fears his reaction. “I’m dying of curiosity, tell me, tell me, tell me—” Chanyeol rattles insistently like a whiny kid, and Jongin laughs out of nervousness—also because he’s too adorable.

“Okay, okay. No offense, but…” Jongin crisps his lips, “It seems like you worry about everything, Chanyeol. No need to hide it behind laughs and smiles, you know.”

One second, two seconds, three seconds of silence.

Maybe… You have gotten out of line this time,” Chanyeol speaks at last, and Jongin knows he struggled not to sound too upset with his words.

“I know. I’m sorry,” Jongin’s quick to apologize honestly. “It’s just that… We listen to each other all day long, it’s impossible to keep secrets. I can’t help but feel like I know you like the back of my hand,” the confession is muffled against the pillow case where he hides his burning face. Jongin wishes he could bury himself under his blanket and disappear to the world.

Kai… We have never met each other,” Chanyeol reasons and there’s hurt in his voice.

Maybe Jongin should shut the fuck up and apologize one more time and call it a night, but Chanyeol’s hasn’t told him to go fuck himself yet—and Jongin’s always been anything but a quitter. He’s still got question marks buzzing in his brain and wishes to get things straight. Jongin may disturb Chanyeol, yet he believes it’s for their own good and doesn’t mind being the one to give out the bitter medicine.

“I hear you cry. Almost every night,” Jongin murmurs with his eyes closed. Lying in bed like this reminds him of his first sleepless night, when he felt Chanyeol’s pain as if it was his own when they barely knew each other. After so many talks and sharing, Jongin reckons going back to that same night would be even more agonizing now, because it isn’t a mere mysterious voice drowning Jongin in suffering—it’s Chanyeol, the dog-person Chanyeol, the singer Chanyeol, the Marvel fanboy Chanyeol. He may not have a face, but he’s got personality. And Jongin loves it. Him.

Well… I should have seen that coming,” Chanyeol sighs and he’s resentful and it breaks Jongin’s heart. “I’ll tone it down. Sorry for disturbing your sleep,” he’s disdainful; Jongin has never heard Chanyeol do that tone before. The words may be courteous as usual, but they’re filled with contempt.

“That isn’t what I meant, Chanyeol!” Jongin protests, sitting up in bed since his brain is too electric and the contrast with his relaxing body troubles him. He speaks the next words in a lower volume; Kyungsoo may be a heavy sleeper, but Jongin doesn’t want to push his luck, “You have the right to cry. You need to cry. Don’t keep it to yourself.” Although it’s just a whisper, Jongin delivers as much understanding as he can muster.

So you wanna hear me cry? ” Chanyeol scoffs, disbelieving, and Jongin wrinkles his nose at his mockery, refraining himself from rolling his eyes in frustration.

“Yeah, if it helps you?” Jongin clicks his tongue, bringing one hand to keep his messy hair away from his face, “No one’s happy all the time, Chany. And that’s completely normal. We all have shitty days.”

“I wish it were just a shitty day,” and then Chanyeol’s tone is so heavy and Jongin can almost picture the burden he must carry on his shoulders to feel so dejected. “Kai…” His voice garbled with emotion, and Jongin shuts his eyes, focusing on that voice, and that voice alone.

“Chany… Tell me,” Jongin pleads softly.

Chanyeol’s panting when he gets the words out, “I did something wrong… And I’m not the one who paid the price for it.” Jongin is about to ask what Chanyeol’s talking about when he lets out a stream of muddled words, “If I hadn’t—If I had been more careful, if I weren’t in a hurry, everything would be fine. It’s all on me, Kai, on me.”

Jongin stays silent as he listens to Chanyeol’s ragged breathing, soaking in every confession of his. He opens his eyes only when Chanyeol’s finishes talking. “Chany… Did anyone point fingers at you?” Jongin is vague, since he senses Chanyeol would run away like a caged animal if he asked for details.

I know they do,” So he’s blaming himself, Jongin concludes, pursing his lips. “I’m sure. Kai, this feeling…” Words fail Chanyeol and a painful cry escapes from him, one so similar to the ones Jongin has listened to so many times. He could hear it a hundred times and still be deeply affected.

Jongin hangs his head low, fingers trailing the flower print of his blanket absentmindedly, “You just said so many ifs… That’s quite a stretch to lay all the blame on you.” Jongin is in the dark (literally and figuratively); however, his gut feeling tells him Chanyeol doesn’t deserve such penitence. This same sensation told Jongin, weeks ago, that Chanyeol was worthy of his trust, and he hasn’t let Jongin down yet.

Don’t tell me I’m not guilty, Kai. I don’t deserve it,” Chanyeol’s speech is jumbled, words tightly sewn to each other in an inarticulate flow, and Jongin struggles to understand him—on so many levels.

“Chany, you’re a great guy,” Jongin comforts him. “I doubt you would ever harm anyone on purpose.” They’re prefab words you may find in birthday cards, but honest and authentic nonetheless.

You don’t know me, Kai, please,” Chanyeol is stubborn and Jongin could punch him if they were face to face. It’s a lie, though. He would never risk damaging Chanyeol’s (possibly) pretty face.

“Eh? Back to square one, are we? I’ll use this same excuse if you ever go know-it-all with my life again,” Jongin replies cockily, trying to steer away the conversation from the sensitive topic. Sometimes enough is enough. “We may have never met in person, but it doesn’t change that we know each other. Though it does affect that you have never seen my pretty face before, so it’s harder to make you fall for me,” Jongin smiles in the dark but he’s flushed red, ashamed at his own attempt at easing the mood.

Who says I haven’t already?” Chanyeol is witty but he still sounds like he’s crying, so Jongin isn't able to take him seriously and simply crackles. They soon start chuckling God knows why—maybe it’s pent-up stress, a knee-jerk reaction that keeps your brain busy when you don't know how to respond—, until a comfortable silence dawns on them.

There are still some things to work out, Jongin knows for sure. A single talk can’t solve everything, and there are missing pieces to the puzzle which is Chanyeol. Yes, Jongin is extremely curious and he fears what Chanyeol may be hiding from him, but what can he do? There's a line that needs to be drawn.

Despite the fact that Jongin has crossed it today, he knows when to stop. He’s relayed his message, so there’s no use pushing Chanyeol over only to get him even tenser. The only thing Jongin can do now is wish for Chanyeol to chew on his words and actually give them some thought. If he doesn’t—well, then Jongin can scold him anytime because he isn’t going anywhere.

Jongin lies on his stomach, head turned to the side, with one of his cheeks resting comfy on his pillow. Other than the toned-down beep, it’s too silent now and he suspects the connection with Chanyeol has been broken. Jongin has just closed his eyes to try to sleep when the well-known voice emerges from his consciousness once more.

Do you know the anime movie Your Name?” Chanyeol asks out of the blue, making Jongin open his eyes wide in surprise at the sudden question. The fast change of subject doesn’t startle Jongin; Chanyeol’s always been like that, jumping from topic to topic without ever coming to a close.

“Gotta tell you I have watched it, but I didn’t quite catch the story,” Jongin murmurs back, lips brushing against the pillowcase.

Really? The thing about Your Name is that the girl was three years ahead of the boy when they swapped bodies,” Chanyeol explains, and his voice has visibly gotten rid of the previous hoarseness caused by whimpering.

“So…?” Jongin trails off because he hasn’t quite gotten Chanyeol’s point yet.

What if we’re on different times, like in the anime?

Jongin rolls on the bed until he’s staring at the ceiling. His eyebrows wrinkle at the whiteness of the ink. “Who’s the president now?” He questions at last.

It’s Moon Jaein, why?” Chanyeol sounds extremely confused, and Jongin has a mental image of him with a frown on his faceless face, arms crossed across his chest.

Jongin displays a shit-eating grin although Chanyeol can’t see him, “Oh, man… I don’t know how to break this to you, but…” Suspense hangs in the air. “Park Geunhye will be pleaded not guilty and will win the next election.”

What?” Chanyeol squeals, "You’re from the future?

“Just kidding!” Jongin can’t bring himself to deceive Chanyeol for too long. That guy’s too gullible for his own good.

Chanyeol snaps a string of colorful curses, yet there’s relief in his voice, “C’mon, I almost had a heart attack!

“Sorry, I had to do it,” Jongin giggles mischievously. Still and all, he doesn’t understand where Chanyeol’s leading the conversation, “What are you trying to say, Chany?”

Don’t you ask yourself why this has happened to us?” Chanyeol ruminates out loud, and his inquiry matches Jongin’s own. “What if we’re like this because we need to fix something? Maybe we’re supposed to stop something from happening, like in the anime when they save the town from the comet."

Jongin presses his lips into a hard line, wrinkles forming in between his eyebrows as he’s deep in thought. So far he’s simply faced it as a weird occurrence, not actually printing any meaning to it. They both have been hit by bad luck, that’s it. Jongin and Chanyeol had just been struck by this unnatural phenomenon and must now bear with it.

“I asked for help from a friend when it first started. He told me something about dimensions merging but I seriously didn’t understand anything,” Jongin laughs bashfully at his own dumbness.

Yuck, Physics,” Chanyeol makes a sound of disgust.

“Exactly,” Jongin hoots, but quickly gets a hold of himself and sobers up. “Chanyeol… I understand your need for a sense of purpose, but… I’m afraid I don’t mind it,” he’s honest. “Don’t get me wrong, but I enjoy talking to you so much. That’s more than enough for me. I’m satisfied. If talking to me will help you get rid of at least an ounce of the blame that you carry on your shoulders… Then I’m happy,” Jongin whispers heartfully, fingers gripping the edge of the blanket to release the tension for finally letting it all out.

And then there’s… Silence. Jongin doesn’t have the guts to break it; he’s laid his heart out in the open and there’s nothing else left unsaid. So Jongin brings the blanket over his head, covering himself like a scared child as he seeks comfort in the warmness under the sheets.

When Chanyeol speaks, his voice runs miles in Jongin’s mind with that low, strong tone of his, “But what about you, Kai? We’ve been talking only about me. What do you want?

What do you want, Kim Jongin?

Jongin sighs audibly. He wishes he could see the bigger picture and aspire to great things in this “deal”, like Chanyeol himself seems to chase. Nevertheless, Jongin just can’t do it. He doesn’t believe in fate or anything he can’t see or can't touch. He analyses facts and comes to his own conclusions. Period. Jongin’s a simple person with simple wishes.

Whatever. Let the dice roll.

“I want you, Chanyeol,” Jongin announces and it sounds so fucking cringey to his own ears that he grimaces at himself underneath the sheets.

Chanyeol mock-gasps, “Am I supposed to pretend I’m surprised?

Jongin rolls his eyes amid his shyness, “You’re making everything ten times more embarrassing, I hate you.”

No, you don't,” he sounds extremely cocky and Jongin wishes he could wipe away the smirk Chanyeol must have on his lips with his own.

“Shh, you're ruining the mood!” Jongin hushes Chanyeol jokingly, unburying himself from under the blanket because he feels a bit smothered. He’s unable to stop his tongue from spilling everything, so Jongin babbles, “Chanyeol, I feel this deep connection between us and I need to know if you feel it too. If you don’t see me that way, there’s no problem. We can end this and—”

I feel it too,” Chanyeol cuts him, nervous. I wanna see you in person, I wanna touch you,” he whispers the last part and then Jongin’s heart is racing.

He can hear the blood drum in his earbuds, he can feel his pulse rush. For a second, the beep threatens to blast out in Jongin’s mind, but he swiftly regains control. Suddenly his throat dries and Jongin licks at his bottom lip, anxious at the idea that he flusters Chanyeol as much as Chanyeol flusters him. That’s even better than having Chanyeol moaning out his name.

But… This whole thing feels like passing flirty notes in class and we can’t even meet face to face,” Chanyeol grumbles, annoyed by the distance.

“That’s very specific,” Jongin ponders, and gets a lonely chuckle from Chanyeol.

Still, Chanyeol sounds unexpectedly serious when he resumes, “That’s who I am, Kai. I’m touchy, I like to have people by my side. I can’t commit myself if there’s no way for us to meet because then it wouldn’t be fair for either of us, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry, Chany. I have an idea.” Jongin says more confidently than he actually feels because they both need it. All they need is a chance.

*  *  *

Jongin walks into the building with his head held high. Despite his cool exterior, he’s burning with shame inwards. What can he do? Jongin’s a prude and extremely self-conscious; it’s a nightmare to imagine what the passersby must have thought of him when they saw him get into the love motel.

Jongin leans over the counter, elbows on top of the shiny marble, “What’s your cheapest room available?”

Man, you’re so stingy,” Chanyeol laughs into his ear.

“It’s…” The female clerk trails off, her fingers fleeting over the keyboard and making a lot of noise in the silent hall. She has her hair tied in a bun and thick-rimmed glasses, looking more professional than Jongin expected for such a debatable workplace. “The room number 405 is vacant,” she informs with her eyes glued to the computer screen; she’s barely even thrown a glance in Jongin’s direction since he walked in.

“Room 405?” Jongin confirms out loud.

405? Okay, gonna check here,” Chanyeol lets him know, and Jongin must intentionally drown out his voice so Chanyeol’s conversation on the other side won’t disturb him.

“Yes,” the clerk nods, still focused on the computer. “It’s the simplest room here. There’s only a double bed,” now she gazes at Jongin with an excessively welcoming smile that screams I-must-sell-something-more-expensive, “You can upgrade to a well-equipped room, with a jacuzzi, adult videos, and sex toys, for just a couple of wons more.”

405 is vacant here too, go for it,” Chanyeol tells Jongin, and that’s the sign he needs.

Jongin beams politely at the clerk when he turns down her offer and settles for room 405, diligently swiping his credit card through the machine. She hands him the keycard after the transaction, “Are you expecting anyone?”

“What do you—Oh. Oh,” Jongin promptly asks, but the words die out and his eyes widen in realization soon enough. “No, thank you,” he himself doesn’t know what he means by thank you.

“That’s fine,” the clerk assures him with kind eyes, but then her gaze falls pointedly to the big bag slung across Jongin’s shoulders. “Many people come here alone. I hope you have fun by yourself,” she curls her lips in a grin, and Jongin flushes even harder when he bows at her and leaves for the elevator.

Why go to a love motel, you ask? Jongin, too, questioned Baekhyun’s dubious idea at the time, but as always his friend had a reasonable explanation on the tip of his tongue.

(“You can’t risk having Chanyeol at your place. What if you run into your version from another Universe? The same goes for his place. It may destroy our world, and I need to live ‘till the Grammys to see Future Nostalgia win Best Album of the Year with my own two eyes.”

Why a love motel, though? There are many private places where I could meet Chanyeol.”

Nini, you seriously ain’t doing the hot guy that lives in your head?

Duly noted.”)

So that’s how Jongin got here.

Isn’t this crazy? We’re in the same place at the same time but we can’t see each other,” Chanyeol muses while Jongin’s on the way to the elevator.

“Yeah…” Jongin steps into the elevator and hits the 4 button. “I gotta tell Baekhyun about this afterwards. He’ll probably go insane if this works out,” he wonders aloud, getting out of the elevator when it arrives at the fourth floor.

It will work out,” the certainty in Chanyeol’s voice comforts Jongin.

Jongin unlocks the door with the keycard, and walks into the room, leaving his shoes by the door. The decoration is plain; it reminds him of a standard budget hotel room and Jongin sincerely appreciates it—he can’t picture himself first meeting Chanyeol on a heart-shaped bed under red lights and ceiling mirrors. Jongin places his bag at the foot of the bed and hears the glasses clatter noisily despite his carefulness. He walks over to the minibar and grabs a cup before getting back to the bag and unzipping it.

Jongin’s eyes scan the alcohol bottles he’s brought before going for the rum—a classic. According to Baekhyun, Chanyeol and he must overwhelm their senses to become more “open to the unseen” and weaken the barrier between their dimensions… or whatever Baekhyun told Jongin.

“Did you get the drinks out?” Jongin asks while pouring himself a cup of rum. He sets the bottle to the side.

Yes. Let’s start it,” Chanyeol speaks energetically, but hisses right after, “Fuck, this is strong.”

“What did you just drink?” Jongin asks, calmly taking a sip from his rum.

Pure vodka.”

“Lightweight,” Jongin mocks, hiding his smirk behind his cup.

Do you have a high tolerance for alcohol?” Chanyeol clicks his tongue and then makes a weird noise. Jongin reckons he’s just gulped down more vodka.

“I think I’m about average?” Jongin doesn’t know for sure. “I can drink up to three bottles of soju just fine,” he empties his cup and goes for another one.

Thank God,” Chanyeol sounds relieved. “For a sec, I thought we’d spend the whole night drinking.”

Jongin sits on the edge of the bed, glance aimed at the ambar liquid which fills his cup, “Don’t you enjoy drinking?”

I love it, but I haven’t drunk like this in years. Too busy with work,” Chanyeol seems displeased at that. There’s college tuition to pay, you know,” he adds in afterthought. “I guess I’m weaker now,” Chanyeol says after one more hiss.

“Lightweight,” Jongin doesn’t miss the opportunity to mock him again.

There’s no quick reply and they’re quiet for a couple of seconds before Chanyeol breaks the silence, “Fuck, I always forget you can’t see me. I just flipped you off.”

“Wow, you’re such a bad boy,” Jongin is sarcastic as he gets himself his third cup of rum. The alcohol runs down his throat, burning hot, but he pays it no mind. Jongin’s all ears to Chanyeol’s low voice and that’s all that matters.

That sharp tongue of yours…” Chanyeol tsks disapprovingly and, even so, he giggles drunkenly at his own joke.

Jongin swallows down in one shot his alcohol—liquid courage, as they call it—and then lies with his back on the bed just to sluggishly say, “Hold on 'cause we’re just starting… My tongue can do a lot more.”

You’re all talk,” Chanyeol whines childishly and his speech slurs a bit. Jongin guesses he’s starting to get drunk. Lightweight indeed, he thinks to himself.

Jongin eyes the ceiling apathetically. It’s funny that they’ve ended up just like the previous night, silly talks whispered in bedrooms and witnessed by dull white walls. Any outsider would peg Jongin for a mad man if they saw him have entire conversations all by himself.

He rises from the bed to set down his cup on the bedside table, and then retrieves a bottle of soju from his bag. Mixing different kinds of alcohol has always managed to get Jongin drunk faster than usual. “What’s your major?” He asks as he uncaps the soju, drinking straight from the bottle.

It’s curious how they have never brought up Chanyeol’s studies when Jongin himself talks all the time about college—even during summer break. Maybe Chanyeol’s right and we don’t actually know each other, Jongin’s features harden when his mind promptly throws back at him Chanyeol’s resentful words.

I study music production,” Chanyeol tells him proudly, and Jongin couldn’t expect any other answer. Of course, Chanyeol does something with music. If he didn’t, then it would be a shame to let his talent go to waste.

“You should make me a song to dance to,” Jongin demands like a spoiled kid.

You would make a great creative muse,” Chanyeol doesn’t think twice before indulging in Jongin's whines. “I wanna see you dance, too.”

“I’m afraid I don’t do lap dances before the third date,” Jongin’s lips are still curved up in a smirk when he drinks more soju. The alcohol sways him strongly now, and Jongin feels his brain heavy inside his skull, ears buzzing in disorder. He caps the bottle and lies on his side, lazy just like he gets every time he drinks.

I'm gonna hold you to that,” Chanyeol promises him, yet it sounds like a mock threat mixed with expectation.

“Well, where are you, Chanyeol? I can’t see you,” Jongin complains grumpily, right cheek against the sheets. Oh, fuck, he hopes they’re meticulously clean because the idea of touching someone else’s come and sweat is disgusting to say the least.

I could ask you the same question, Kai,” Chanyeol drawls his nickname, and Jongin appreciates it. It sounds really hot in his baritone. “How long do you think it’ll take us to get there?

“Have no idea. I’m hammered already,” Jongin murmurs.

Lightweight,” Chanyeol snickers, but his chuckles soon grow into a loud, drunken laugh that has Jongin giggling together because Chanyeol is definitely as wasted as Jongin. Mouth wide open in laughter, Jongin rolls around on the mattress, his mind spinning in incoherent thoughts.

He stops his movements when he’s lying supine on bed, “What if this doesn’t work out, Chanyeol?” Jongin pouts, glaring sadly at the yellow ceiling light that threatens to blind his eyes. “How—”

“Kai,” Chanyeol calls him out.

“Yes?”

All emotion is repressed in Chanyeol’s voice, like he’s hiding something, “Don’t you see anything different?”

Jongin frowns, “Like what?”

“Kai,” Chanyeol’s voice is unexpectedly sober at first, but he quickly dissolves in chuckles once more. And… It doesn’t sound like it usually does. There’s something different about the noise—it’s as if someone’s turned the volume up. It’s like listening to music on loudspeakers, instead of headphones.

“Wait a second,” Jongin sits on the bed, forgoing his previous leisure stance. The motion’s too sudden for his sloshed brain, so he squints as he tries to regain focus. Jongin stares dumbly at the wooden headboard as if it could explain to him what’s happening right now.

“Turn this way, you silly,” Chanyeol tells him and there’s a hint of humor to his tone.

Jongin does as he’s told, moving his body faster than an owl turning its head 180º. And yes, finally, Chanyeol is standing before his eyes in flesh and bone. He’s near the foot of the bed, gaze locked with Jongin’s.

The first thing that Jongin takes notice of is his height—Chanyeol’s tall, maybe even taller than Jongin. That height is accompanied by a pair of squared, strong shoulders and delineated arms with veiny muscles that have Jongin thirsty. Chanyeol’s got a surprisingly baby face, big eyes giving him an even more gullible look. Big ears, satisfying lips, and a straight nose bridge compose his features, and Jongin’s certainly pleased with his view.

Suddenly, there are dimples in his fluffy cheeks and Chanyeol’s grinning at Jongin, “Did you just check me out?”

“Definitely,” Jongin is recklessly bold because a) he’s super drunk b) Chanyeol’s in front of him in person!! “I know you did it too. Do you like what you see?” He props his chin in his hand, elbow resting on his knee. Jongin’s extremely vain, so he makes sure to display his face’s good side—it’s the left one, of course—to Chanyeol.

He tilts his head to the side, still smiling as he walks towards Jongin with measured steps, “I sure do.” Chanyeol’s cheeks flush and he’s even more adorable in person. “I can’t believe it worked out. I don’t know Baekhyun, but that guy… He’s a genius.”

Jongin crawls on the bed so he can get to the edge of the mattress and sit there. He pats the spot beside him, and glances insinuating at Chanyeol. “Baekhyun is, like, the last person I wanna think of right now,” Jongin spits the truth without a care in the world; that’s what alcohol does to him.

Chanyeol crackles shyly as he sits by Jongin’s side, their arms brushing with the motion. Chanyeol’s skin is pretty warm even though he’s wearing a sleeveless shirt. When they're sitting like this, side by side, it’s evident Chanyeol’s a couple of centimeters taller than him, and Jongin feels a strange instinct to rest his head on Chanyeol’s broad shoulder. Blame it on Jongin being around only midgets—also known as Baekhyun and Kyungsoo—for too long.

However, Jongin does none of that because Chanyeol is clearly tense. His back is rigidly straight, head facing onwards and eyes glued to the white wall before them. His posture is tight, like a coiled string about to burst into motion at any moment. Any other day, Jongin would take his time to seep into Chanyeol’s bones and relax him little by little like one would carefully play the strings of a violin, but Jongin isn’t very responsible when drunk. Plus, he’s afraid the connection will break anytime—after all, where are they? Is Jongin still in his own dimension, and he’s brought Chanyeol here? Or is it the other way around? Or is it neither? He can’t look too much into this, otherwise he’ll tie his (already impaired) mind into knots.

So Jongin takes a lighter approach, “Turn this way, you silly.” He may have blown a breath of hot air towards Chanyeol’s exposed neck on purpose. And Jongin may have relished in the shudder that spreads down Chanyeol’s shoulders and chest in response.

Chanyeol looks his way and, for an instant, Jongin is at a loss for words. There's some sort of warm feeling spilling from Chanyeol’s brown eyes, but he can’t put a finger on it. Jongin has no idea if it’s anticipation, nervousness or reluctance. They have never been face to face like this before, so Jongin is used to tell Chanyeol’s mood apart by voice alone.

Jongin rests his hand delicately on Chanyeol’s jawline. He makes the motion as subtle as possible so as not to scare him away, and Chanyeol nuzzles briefly against his palm like an affectionate kitten. “You fine?” Jongin asks, cautious.

“Yeah…” The word falls from Chanyeol’s lips easily, so Jongin knows it’s honest. “It feels… So different,” Chanyeol tries to reason, yet he has trouble defining his sensations under the effect of alcohol. His speech is still slurred and his big eyes can’t focus for too long—Chanyeol’s gaze shifts constantly between Jongin’s lips and eyes.

“We’re still the same, Chany,” Jongin assures him, tilting his head slowly towards Chanyeol’s. They are incontestably drawn to each other, diminishing the distance between them two bit by bit without thinking. It’s something purely natural, like the pull of a magnet.

“I know,” Chanyeol answers while ogling Jongin’s lips. He tongues at his bottom lip just to see Chanyeol’s captivated eyes follow the movement. “I just didn’t expect you to be so stunning,” Chanyeol is extremely candid as usual. It isn’t a cheap pick-up line; Jongin knows he means it.

Jongin fights against a presumptuous smile. “You’re so handsome too,” he whispers the compliment, and Chanyeol beams, that cute dimple showing up once again. Jongin takes in a deep breath to situate himself before getting to the bottom of it, “Chany… Let me kiss you.” It’s supposed to be a question, but Jongin’s so certain of the answer that it ends up being a heads-up.

Chanyeol looks into Jongin’s eyes one more time before leaning down—and that’s good enough for an answer.

When their lips meet, Jongin tastes the bitter flavor of vodka on Chanyeol’s tongue, and the peculiar mix of sweet rum and neutral soju in his own mouth takes over Chanyeol’s taste buds. They may have been hesitant at first, but now there isn’t anything other than sheer rush to their kiss. They’re both impatient, diving into each other’s mouth and tangling tongues desperately in a clumsy way like it’s their first kiss ever.

Jongin usually loves to tease and play when kissing, enjoys biting and sucking a lot, but he senses there’s no time for that. Chanyeol nibbles on Jongin’s bottom lip from time to time to get a delighted groan from him and, even so, he’s equally hasty and plunges into Jongin’s mouth as if a suffocated man in search of oxygen.

Jongin’s hand caresses Chanyeol’s sharp jawline and his smooth cheek, fingers skimming down his neck and enclasping around one of his shoulders to anchor himself. Jongin’s lightheaded and he’s sure it isn’t due to the alcohol—a floating-like sensation overpowers his whole body because of Chanyeol’s touches, kisses, strokes. Jongin slides his soft pecks down Chanyeol’s chin, paying close attention to the curve of his neck and covering the whole area with his wet lips.

One of Chanyeol’s hands snakes under Jongin’s shirt hem, feeling around the warm skin of his lower back and scratching at it with his short nails. Only then it dawns on Jongin that Chanyeol’s hands are gigantic—it overlays most of his small of the back; thick fiery fingers feeling up above his waist. It sends shivers of pleasure down Jongin’s spine, muted moans trapped in his lips as they’re busy fluttering over Chanyeol’s neck and shoulders.

Chanyeol dips his fingers under the waistband of Jongin’s pants, hand resting there absentmindedly. He shudders under Jongin’s lips’ exploration. Whenever Chanyeol’s breathing falters, threatening to turn into a sigh of desire, Jongin makes sure to tongue at the said sensitive spot one more time, leaving hickeys in his wake.

Brushing his nose along Chanyeol’s shoulder, Jongin opens his eyes in time to see Chanyeol’s own still closed shut, face relaxed and mouth slack half-open as he falls under Jongin’s caresses. Taking advantage of his distraction, Jongin goes forward and leaves a peck at Chanyeol’s lax lips, a smack reverberating in the bedroom.

That breaks Chanyeol’s laid-back stance, mouth cracking in a couple of giggles as he opens his eyes at last. There’s tenderness in his features and something in his gaze makes Jongin pause. Forget all about their previous hurriedness, because now Jongin feels as if time has stopped when staring into Chanyeol.

Chocolate eyes bore into Jongin and honesty, support and trust is all he can see and it soothes him deep in his soul. That short breather makes Chanyeol and Jongin sober up a little, and there’s no desperate, fast heartbeat hurrying their bloodstream or liquor clouding their thoughts anymore. This isn’t the alcohol talking, because they’re both aware of what is going on here—and they both want it. They have been aching for it for goddamn too long.

Setting a new pace, Chanyeol places a big hand on Jongin’s nape and leans down to kiss him again. Jongin makes an effort to back down and allows Chanyeol to take the lead, letting himself go like putty under Chanyeol’s hands. Chanyeol starts slow, fleeting brushes of lips with no tongue as if he’s examining closely the size, thickness, and texture of Jongin’s mouth; an adventurous tip of tongue dips in every now and then to taste Jongin’s lips and bring him closer to the edge—but not quite there yet.

Jongin lays a hand on Chanyeol’s thick thigh, fingers dangerously close to his crotch, and that’s what makes Chanyeol part his lips once and for all and coax Jongin into opening his own mouth. It’s completely different now, and everything’s new, as if they haven’t kissed just a minute ago. The taste of alcohol has been mostly cleared away, and since there’s no hurry to race their hearts and make them lark anymore, Jongin can take note of Chanyeol’s motions, of the silkiness of his tongue brushing against his, of Chanyeol’s heavy hand on the back of Jongin’s head.

Chanyeol leaves a chaste kiss to the corner of Jongin’s mouth before withdrawing. There’s a thin string of saliva connecting their lips when he pulls back, and Chanyeol’s cheeks are tinged in the cutest hue of pinkish red. However, something else catches Jongin’s eye.

He regards the guitar engraved on Chanyeol’s right arm when he removes his hand from Jongin’s nape. It’s a predictable image, yet a beautiful design in fine line. Jongin likes it. It certainly conveys Chanyeol’s passion for music that Jongin’s come to know in the last weeks.

“Oh, you have tattoos… Cool,” Jongin remarks in a weak voice because he’s out of breath.

“You got any?” Chanyeol’s voice is raspier than usual, and Jongin knows he’s as flustered by their makeout session.

Jongin shakes his head, “No. I’m scared of needles.”

Chanyeol purses his lips, clouded eyes locked on Jongin’s curious gaze, “Such a baby.”

Jongin rolls his eyes and lets the teasery slide, more interested in the other drawings marked on Chanyeol’s skin, “Why a monkey?”

“I was born in the year of the monkey,” he shrugs.

“Really? I’m from the year of the rooster,” Jongin tells him, fingering along the monkey tattoo, entranced like a kid who’s gotten a brand-new toy.

“Then I’m older than you. Call me hyung,” Chanyeol jokes and brings one hand to mess up Jongin's hair. The gesture would be patronizing if he hadn’t left his hand there to properly caress Jongin’s head, making him smile satisfied.

“What about the arrow?” Jongin’s curiosity is endless, hand now going along the arrow tattoo near his elbow. Chanyeol lets Jongin move his arm around as he wishes, tracing the drawings and eyeing them closely.

“I'm a sagittarius. You know, expansive and energetic,” he answers, a smirk spreading his lips for finding Jongin’s wonderment so entertaining.

“That does sound like you,” Jongin agrees, and then he does something he’s been craving for since he first saw Chanyeol in person: rest his head on his broad shoulder.

“What's your star sign?” Chanyeol keeps on stroking his head lovingly, fingers threading Jongin’s strands of hair. It’s funny how such a rude-looking hand can be so tender.

“I don't believe in astrology,” Jongin murmurs back.

There’s a knowing grin in Chanyeol's lips when he insists, “What's your star sign?”

Jongin gives in easily because it’s Chanyeol, “Capricorn.”

“Argh, I should have known it,” Chanyeol laughs and Jongin feels like he’s the butt of a joke.

“Why?” Jongin pouts at Chanyeol, trying to guilt trip him with his pleading eyes.

“‘I don't believe in astrology’,” Chanyeol mimics Jongin's sweet, hoarse voice. “Only skepticals say that… Such as earth signs,” he reasons, grinning like a know-it-all at Jongin.

“That’s Greek to me,” Jongin shrugs, and Chanyeol clicks his tongue before dropping his hand from Jongin’s hair to his chin, gently pulling his face towards Chanyeol’s.

Jongin dodges his lips just to make Chanyeol impatient. There are flames in Chanyeol’s eyes when Jongin mischievously pecks both corners of his mouth and then the tip of his nose, always avoiding a full kiss on Chanyeol’s lips on purpose.

Jongin locks Chanyeol’s lower lip between his, nibbling on it playfully and swiping swiftly the tip of his tongue in apology. When Chanyeol makes the move to deepen the kiss, Jongin backs away briefly just to watch him follow after his mouth as if in a trance, eyes clear as crystal giving away his expectation.

Jongin displays a shit-eating grin that has Chanyeol frowning, displeased, but then Jongin beckons to him and that’s all Chanyeol needs to dip down, going straight to finally suck on Jongin’s tongue and getting a loud, pleasured groan from him. Their hard breathing and wet sounds fill the room as they tangle their tongues without a care again.

Jongin’s fingers entwine in Chanyeol’s dark hair, skillfully guiding his head to angle it just like he likes it. Chanyeol’s own hands head south, going from Jongin’s waist to his hips. Then he spreads both hands and each of them almost covers Jongin’s buttcheeks completely. The thought of what these big hands can do to Jongin’s body has him moaning louder than usual against Chanyeol’s mouth, but Chanyeol ruins the mood when he breaks their kiss to laugh all of a sudden.

“I knew you weren’t perfect,” Chanyeol tells Jongin, hot breath fanning his face.

Jongin bypasses the indirect flirt and raises an eyebrow, offended, “What are you talking about?”

“Check this out,” Chanyeol's large palms slide over Jongin’s backside shamelessly, gripping at the (lack of) meat there. “Where’s your ass, Kai?”

Jongin chuckles in shock because that’s definitely not what he expected to hear. Even so, he still has half a mind to mock-punch Chanyeol in the shoulder, who yelps at the abrupt violence and retrieves his hands from Jongin’s ass.

“You're one to talk,” Jongin protests, hands leaving Chanyeol’s hair so he could reach Chanyeol’s own backside, which is as flat as Jongin’s own. “Just so you know, there are a lot of people interested in my ass, okay?” He tries to make up for his hurt ego.

Chanyeol’s eyes darken, and Jongin doesn’t know for sure what it means. “Is that so? I wish I had your luck,” Chanyeol blows the words towards Jongin, and he can’t help but grasp some innuendo from them.

Before Jongin could question his claim, Chanyeol takes off his shirt with a swift move. The words are lost on Jongin's tongue for he’s enthralled by Chanyeol’s naked chest; soft, perfect skin adorned by a six-pack that has Jongin wondering what it would feel like to bite, kiss and suck at it. That broad chest… Jongin wants to rub his face against those abs.

Chanyeol throws the discarded piece of clothing on the floor, eyes sparkling in challenge at Jongin, “Will you take care of me, Kai?”

Jongin rises wordlessly, and he feels Chanyeol’s curious eyes watch his every move as Jongin stands before him with a wicked grin. “I’m up to the task,” he declares before tapping at Chanyeol’s shoulder to make him lie on his back on the bed.

Jongin snickers when he sees Chanyeol struggle to crane his neck so he could send expectant glares in his direction. Proud smirk still on his lips, Jongin promptly straddles Chanyeol, legs on both sides of his waist as he sits down on top of Chanyeol’s bulge.

Jongin’s glad to know he isn’t the only one affected here. “What do we have here, uh?”

Jongin throws a sexual glance in Chanyeol’s way when he rolls his hips in a fluid move to grind their erections together. There’s still denim in between them two, but the contact is satisfying nonetheless, both sharing a gasped out sigh of pleasure. Chanyeol props his elbows in the mattress to raise his torso and he’s about to say something—probably to boost his own ego—when Jongin goes down on his chest, rubbing his cheek along Chanyeol’s pectoral, hard muscle contrasting with soft skin.

Jongin noses around the areola of his left nipple before latching his lips to the hardening nub and sucking it hard. Chanyeol reflexively grinds his hips up, bringing a hand to Jongin’s head. Chanyeol seems like he doesn’t know what to do—whether he should pull Jongin’s head away or press him harder against his chest. In doubt, he simply mewls, throwing his head backwards as his fingers thread into Jongin’s hair, not actually guiding him but just stroking.

Jongin alternates between Chanyeol’s nipples, licking and grasping it between his lips to get louder noises out of Chanyeol. His hands roam around Chanyeol’s torso, feeling and touching the muscles and smooth texture. Jongin mouths along Chanyeol’s chest, which is as sensitive as his neck and shoulders, if Chanyeol’s frustrated attempts at grinding their crotches together are of any indication.

Chanyeol’s hands explore Jongin’s back under the fabric of his shirt, pressing down and fondling. Chanyeol’s fingers teasingly dip below his waistband sometimes, threatening to follow along Jongin’s crack, and Chanyeol scratches at some places whenever Jongin’s lips do something right on his nipples.

Jongin is bent on painting that unblemished, pale skin of his chest so he nibbles on that sea of milk near Chanyeol’s collarbone, sternum and ribs. Chanyeol appears to be ticklish, for he squirms under Jongin’s touches, groaning out every now and then when he accomplishes at leaving a hickey behind. Chanyeol’s skin buzzes under his lips in expectation and restraint, his grip on Jongin’s hair tightening into a firm pull that has Jongin’s eyes rolling in pleasure.

Satisfied with his (now) colorful canvas, Jongin pecks at the greenish and yellowish spots he’s left on Chanyeol’s chest, kissing them attentively before tonguing his way down Chanyeol’s six-pack abs. Chanyeol holds his breath when the tip of Jongin’s tongue stops right above his navel.

Jongin raises his eyes to steal a glance of Chanyeol’s pleasure-filled face—his eyes are screwed shut, and his lower lip is trapped between his teeth so he won’t let any sound out. Jongin tsks disapprovingly at that, shaking his head, “You’re a screamer by yourself, why are you getting all shy now?”

Chanyeol opens his eyes to find a cute, pouting Jongin. There’s surprise and confusion to Chanyeol’s stare, but also fire and desire. “Ha! I knew you heard me that night,” there would be more bite to Chanyeol’s voice if he weren’t out of breath.

Jongin’s mouth curves down at the thought of Chanyeol’s setting him up—so the fucker had been teasing him all along… Feeling naughty, he slides his right hand along Chanyeol’s erection through the jeans, and he beams when Chanyeol promptly hisses at the contact, letting go of Jongin’s hair.

Chanyeol raises his hips up, seeking for the touch by instinct, but Jongin soon manages to hold Chanyeol’s pelvis back against the bed with his free hand. “So you set me up,” Jongin purses his lips at Chanyeol.

“Of course,” he’s whiny, still fidgeting under Jongin’s hand on his bulge. “You’re all bark and no bite, Kai.”

Jongin raises an eyebrow at that, bringing his hand to the fly of Chanyeol’s jeans. “You’re gonna regret those words,” Jongin threatens before unbuttoning his pants, pulling them along with Chanyeol’s underwear down those beautiful, slender legs that go for miles.

In spite of his antics, Chanyeol helps Jongin silently undress him. Chanyeol can barely hide the devilish excitement from his eyes. Maybe Chanyeol is urging Jongin and he’s the dumb one for giving in so easily but, fuck… Jongin definitely wants to play this game.

Jongin can’t help but take a moment to appreciate the view. Chanyeol is completely naked on the bed, muscular torso marked with hickeys. His broad shoulders, sculptured arms and thick thighs are quite a sight for sore eyes. Chanyeol’s hard dick is long and slightly curved up, a bit bigger than Jongin’s, with balls a little smaller than Jongin expected due to his length. Maybe it’s his oral fixation speaking, but Jongin wants it in his mouth—not so fast, though, because Chanyeol doesn’t deserve it yet.

Make me regret, Kai,” Chanyeol challenges him and that’s the last straw.

Jongin takes his sweet time positioning himself between Chanyeol’s long legs under his watchful eyes. He starts slooow, bringing a hand to the back of Chanyeol’s left knee to make him bend his leg, foot planted on the mattress. Jongin proceeds to kiss the back of his muscular thigh, lips brushing affectionately along the veins that stand out on the milky skin.

He hears a thump and raises his eyes in time to see Chanyeol give up on watching Jongin, favoring resting his head on the bed as he stares at the ceiling. Jongin sucks at the skin near his knee and Chanyeol mewls shyly when he bites there, before tonguing at mark carefully. The kisses rise to his inner thighs and Jongin’s happy to find more meat in that area, trapping bits between his teeth and then letting go just to hear more of Chanyeol’s moans.

Jongin noses along Chanyeol’s groin, where his leg meets the hip, and nibbles playfully on the front of his upper thigh. He touches near Chanyeol’s cock but never close enough, and it drives him insane. Chanyeol’s whole body twitches and he clearly fights back the will to grind his crotch against Jongin’s face to get him where Chanyeol wants so badly.

Never one to make things easier, Jongin rests his mouth on Chanyeol’s groin, closer to his dick, and hears him hold his breath in expectation. Jongin grins to himself when he peppers kisses along Chanyeol’s groin, avoiding his cock altogether. He can feel Chanyeol’s thigh quiver under his hand, hips tense and muscles tight.

Without a single warning, Jongin ducks down his head to put one of Chanyeol’s balls in his mouth. He wets it with saliva, sucking avidly and tonguing at the sensitive skin. Chanyeol shudders and lets out a wail just like the one from That Night, head thrashing on the mattress to release that pent-up feeling growing bigger and bigger inside of Chanyeol, akin to an overblown balloon about to burst at any second.

Chanyeol’s reaction pleases Jongin deeply, who goes thirsty at his other ball, pressing down the flat of his tongue against the smooth skin. Jongin enjoys watching Chanyeol wiggle and pant; his heaving fills the otherwise quiet bedroom and his knuckles are almost white where he grasps strongly at the bedsheets to hold himself back.

When Jongin becomes tired of torturing Chanyeol, he releases his balls to dot soft pecks on his upper thighs. Jongin hears Chanyeol sigh audibly in relief and that’s when he feels malicious once more, letting go of his act to suck along Chanyeol’s perineum. The tip of the muscle skates over his balls down to the hole, tongue sliding up and down on the trimmed hair there.

Jongin feels the flesh twitch under his tongue and then Chanyeol’s gasping louder than ever. His legs close up around Jongin’s head by instinct, and he has to hold Chanyeol’s knees back with both his hands so Chanyeol’s thighs won’t suffocate him. Jongin feels the rigidness of Chanyeol’s thighs against his cheeks, face crammed in between those strong legs and, holy shit, that’s so hot.

Jongin smacks a loud kiss over Chanyeol’s hole and watches it clench invitingly. Chanyeol is now whimpering indistinguishable words as he punches the mattress in desperation. However, Jongin pays attention to the unexpected taste that fills his mouth. He eyes Chanyeol’s hole with a frown, and takes note of the rim, red like the entrance’s been rubbed already not long ago.

“Hold on a sec,” Jongin raises his head from between Chanyeol’s thighs to look him in the eye. Chanyeol props himself on his elbows to stare at Jongin. “Did you prep yourself before coming here?” Jongin smacks his lips to taste the leftover flavor on his tongue, “...With strawberry-flavored lube?”

Chanyeol blushes as he smiles and how can someone look so adorable while spreading their legs? “I thought you’d like it,” he says in a small voice.

Jongin just chuckles because he doesn’t know how to act, baffled at Chanyeol’s concern. He rests his head on Chanyeol’s inner thigh before nuzzling into it affectionately, “I appreciate it, but I like to use a lot of lube. Can you reach the bedside table? I think there’s a bottle in the drawer.” Jongin leaves a kiss on Chanyeol’s thigh when he’s done speaking.

Chanyeol’s long arm reaches the bedside table just fine without moving from the bed. Still rubbing his cheek against Chanyeol’s muscular thigh, Jongin hears the distinct sound of wood sliding, and then a bang when Chanyeol closes the drawer clumsily. Chanyeol gives him the lube with shaky hands, and Jongin can’t help but laugh through his nose. The small pool of precome on Chanyeol’s abdomen, where the head of his cock lies, tells Jongin that he may have gone too far delaying Chanyeol’s orgasm.

“Thank you, Chany,” Jongin kisses his inner thigh lovingly.

He uncaps the bottle and dribs some lube on the fingers of his right hand, briefly warming the liquid with his body temperature before sliding the digits softly over Chanyeol’s hole, not actually breaching it yet. The ring of muscles jerks under Jongin’s attention and, although Chanyeol is as quiet as possible when heaving, his legs are tense against Jongin’s cheeks, muscle hard as a rock giving away how affected he is by Jongin’s touches.

Jongin takes a sneak peek of Chanyeol and sees him with his head back on the mattress, mouth wide open as he gasps, overwhelmed. Chanyeol tilts his head to the side, impatient eyes searching for Jongin as if to question why he’s stopped with his caresses. Gazes still locked, Jongin at last inserts his index finger into Chanyeol’s hole slowly, and relishes in the sight of Chanyeol’s feature twisted in delight.

Jongin turns his full attention to the task at hand, pressing his thumb at Chanyeol’s perineum to give a special touch to the building up pleasure. Despite Jongin’s carefulness, his finger slips in without a fight due to Chanyeol’s previous prepping. He promptly clicks his tongue at Jongin’s over-the-top caution, and Jongin takes it as a sign to give way to his middle finger, too.

Two fingers in, Jongin feels around Chanyeol’s channel tentatively until Chanyeol lets out a surprised squeal, and Jongin smirks for hitting the jackpot. He presses against the same spot, getting a similar reaction from Chanyeol, whose hips jerk along the fingers’ movement.

Jongin has an idea.

He retrieves his hand and inserts only his longest finger into Chanyeol’s entrance, searching for his prostate again. Jongin massages at it once, twice, thrice.

Chanyeol shrieks, “There, there! Over there!” Chanyeol’s toes curl as he digs his heels into the mattress, legs bent on both sides of Jongin’s body.

“Can you come from just it?” Jongin asks with a wicked glint.

Chanyeol’s eyes widen apprehensively at the question, and he seems to be against Jongin’s idea; however, Chanyeol doesn’t get to voice his opinion properly because Jongin starts to hammer his middle finger into Chanyeol’s hole, making sure to always aim for his prostate. Chanyeol bursts into incoherent moans as he instinctively thrusts his hips against Jongin’s finger, body undulating beautifully on the bed every single time Jongin hits that spot.

Jongin catches Chanyeol lowering one of his hands down his abdomen, heading to his erection, and promptly smacks it away to make it clear that Chanyeol isn’t allowed to touch his cock so soon. Chanyeol wails loudly at that, whatever restraint he had left thrown out the window.

Jongin raises his head because he wants to watch Chanyeol’s face when he comes. Chanyeol’s all disheveled—his face is as red as a ruby jewel, there are tears in his shut eyes, his mouth is agape into an O-like shape. Uncoordinated words fall from Chanyeol’s lips—there are repeated “yeahs”, and a couple of moaned-out “Kai” here and there—and then he lets out a particularly low-pitched yell and his come paints his six-pack white in thick spurs.

Chanyeol blinks a couple of times, disoriented. He slowly sits up on the bed after struggling a bit for lying down for too long. He looks around with half-lidded eyes, takes a glance of his soiled abdomen, and then watches Jongin positioned in between his legs. “Wait… Did I just come and you’re still wearing clothes?”

“Yeah,” Jongin doesn’t bother to hide the presumptuous smile lighting up his face. He leaves the bed and goes over to the bedside table, “What were you saying about all bark and no bite?” Jongin hands Chanyeol some tissues to wipe away the come spilled on his stomach, and Chanyeol thanks him with a still flustered look.

Jongin’s back is facing the bed when he slides the drawer shut and, before he can react, there are long arms embracing his body from behind and bringing him back to the mattress. Jongin lets out a yelp out of surprise, but doesn’t fight against Chanyeol’s back hug as he positions them both properly near the headboard. Chanyeol’s broad chest is warm against Jongin’s back; his long legs are on both sides of Jongin’s body.

“Whoa, let’s get you undressed,” Chanyeol speaks into Jongin’s ear before leaving a warm kiss on a lower spot of his neck.

Jongin could try to play alpha male and get things back under his control, but he doesn’t feel like it. Chanyeol’s embrace is comfortably hot, warmness enveloping Jongin’s body like never before. He’s been heated since their first kiss, yet now it’s a completely different sensation. It isn’t fiery like sweating or passing out; it’s fiery like being welcomed and protected. Jongin could build a home there in Chanyeol’s lap.

So Jongin sits back and allows himself to be manhandled by Chanyeol. When he unbuttons Jongin’s pants and pushes it down clumsily along with his underwear, Jongin sighs in relief because his hard dick has been trapped in the denim for far too long. Jongin’s erection stirs up when it’s finally freed, and Jongin throws his head back, but his motion is interrupted by Chanyeol raising his shirt up his chest to get it off. Chanyeol’s hands brush briefly against Jongin’s nipples, and he yelps in a Pavlovian response.

“What… Was that?” Chanyeol looks at him curiously over the shoulder.

“No-nothing,” Jongin shakes his head frantically.

“Hum…” Chanyeol doesn’t buy Jongin’s dismissal, tossing his shirt recklessly before resting his hands innocently on Jongin’s waist. “So…” One of Chanyeol’s hands goes abruptly for Jongin’s right nipple and he whimpers again, “...You've got sensitive nipples. Cool.”

“Stop it!” Jongin whines. He squirms in Chanyeol’s embrace and everything feels new now that they’re skin to skin with no clothes in the way. Jongin feels the contact even more intensely, something he wouldn’t deem possible before since it’s too much already for him.

“Please,” Chanyeol snickers, probably reminiscing on how Jongin tortured him less than five minutes ago. He proceeds to abuse both Jongin’s nipples at the same time, skillful big hands taking over his chest boldly. Jongin tries to get away from Chanyeol’s hold because he’s too sensitive, but Chanyeol lets go of one of his nipples to circle his waist and keep Jongin against his chest.

Jongin’s body waves under Chanyeol’s relentless fondling, fingers playing around with his nubs in the most agonizing way. He drops his head to Chanyeol’s shoulder again, nosing along the side of his neck as he closes his eyes. Jongin is extremely relaxed and aroused at the same time, mouth half-open, and there’s not even a single sound coming from him because his brain is stunned as if Jongin had already come three times and couldn’t be any more turned on because his body is at its max capacity.

His shut eyes make everything even more blazing. Jongin’s sense of touch is enhanced and he takes note of things that have gone unnoticed before, like Chanyeol’s soft dick resting against the small of his back, and Jongin’s nails scratching at Chanyeol’s thighs.

Jongin mewls softly when Chanyeol lets go of his nipple for once and brings his hand to Jongin’s chin to kiss him. Now that Jongin is pliant on his lap and overpowered by their liplock, Chanyeol releases his grip on his waist to get the bottle of lube. He uncaps it single-handedly as he tongues at Jongin’s full bottom lip, squirting some lube on his free hand.

Chanyeol touches Jongin’s cock with his wet hand and Jongin doesn’t see that coming, too entranced by the kiss. He breaks it to gasp at the cold feeling on the too sensitive skin, chest heaving and strangled out breathing. Chanyeol doesn’t give Jongin a break, thumb going straight to his cockhead, and Jongin’s nails dig deeper into Chanyeol’s thighs to release tension.

“Fuck, Chanyeol,” Jongin pants into his ear and then attacks at Chanyeol’s jawline, lips parting and sucking and pressing without a care.

Chanyeol obediently shows off his neck to give more space for Jongin’s mouth, all the while jacking Jongin off blindly, feeling around his dick to get to know his sweet spots better. Jongin departs from Chanyeol’s neck to rise up to his ear, sucking an earlobe into his mouth and relaying between sliding it with his soft tongue and biting it down with his sharp teeth. Chanyeol gasps, jerking Jongin even faster in response.

Jongin knows he’s close, he’s almost there, but he doesn’t want to come—no, not like this.

“No-no-no,” he taps at Chanyeol’s right arm to cease the masturbation. “I don’t wanna come like this.”

“You’ll take care of me now?” Chanyeol asks and expectation flashes in his eyes. They’re certainly on the same page.

“Definitely, baby, I promised you,” Jongin pecks Chanyeol on his lips, displaying warm eyes as if he weren’t on the edge of an orgasm. Jongin starts to will himself down mentally; he can’t blow too soon because he’s finally fucking Chanyeol and he’ll enjoy it until the very last drop.

Chanyeol winces out of the blue, “Shit, you got condoms? I forgot them.”

“Yeah… It’s in my back pocket.” Jongin leaves Chanyeol’s lap and crawls along the mattress to get his jeans discarded on the foot of the bed. He does it all while ignoring Chanyeol’s wolf whistles and a couple of remarks on his poor ass.

“Someone came prepared,” Chanyeol observes with his eyebrows dancing insinuatingly on his forehead.

“Have you ever heard your voice? Of course I expected something,” Jongin explains unashamedly as he crawls back to Chanyeol, condom in hand. “Which do you prefer: on all fours or missionary?”

“Can I ride you?” Chanyeol tilts his head to the side in doubt. Jongin is about to sputter something incoherent when Chanyeol himself settles it, “Let me ride you real slow and then you fuck me with all you got.”

Jongin cracks a smile, “Whatever you wish, Chany.”

They switch places on the bed, and Jongin rests against the headboard as Chanyeol positions himself on Jongin’s crotch, knees on both sides of his waist and back facing Jongin. He welcomes the solid weight over his groin, clenching his teeth to hold back a low moan as Jongin watches his hard dick nestle along Chanyeol’s crack, smearing some precome on his lowerback.

Jongin squirts lube in his hand, warming it in his digits as his free hand traces invisible patterns along Chanyeol’s back, fleeting fingers trailing hard muscles and his sinuous spine.

“Start with three fingers. I can take it,” Chanyeol assures him while lowering his torso to angle his ass up before Jongin’s eyes, stiff six-pack brushing against Jongin’s thighs.

“Okay,” Jongin complies with Chanyeol’s orientation, using his index finger to first breach Chanyeol’s hole, and then make room for his two other digits to slide in. It’s easy to finger Chanyeol because he’s still opened up from Jongin’s previous teasery and there’s even more lube now. He focuses his fingers on spreading the rim, avoiding Chanyeol’s prostate altogether because he’s tortured Chanyeol enough.

There’s a moment of comfortable silence between them two, and the only sounds are Chanyeol’s heavy breathing and the wet noises of Jongin’s fingers sliding in and out.

Chanyeol hums a beat later, “I’m good to go.”

Jongin curves down to leave a butterfly kiss on Chanyeol’s lower back in agreement, getting the condom ready and sliding it down his hard dick. He then dribbles more lube onto his length, hissing low at the coldness amplified by his oversensitivity. Jongin shuts his eyes for a second while jacking off briefly just to spread the lube better.

There’s a mischievous grin to Jongin’s lips when he rubs the head of his dick along Chanyeol’s hole to make him whine in that sweet way of his.

“Kai…” Chanyeol threatens, slapping at his shin for Jongin to hurry.

Jongin is still grinning when he finally guides his cock into Chanyeol’s entrance. He watches Chanyeol’s ass swallow the head of his cock in awe as Chanyeol keens loudly, body twitching on top of his. Jongin’s about to ask if he’s fine when Chanyeol all of a sudden snaps his hips down in one swift move, and Jongin’s cock magically disappears in between those pale cheeks.

Chanyeol doesn’t give Jongin a single moment to think, promptly starting to roll his hips, rotating it in small circles. Jongin’s throbbing cock is enveloped in his warmth, watching Chanyeol’s ass move dexterously. He goes up and down on Jongin’s cock, ass brushing against his crotch with every move.

True to his word, Chanyeol goes really slow on Jongin’s dick, hips trying out new angles. An ardent sigh falls from Chanyeol’s mouth whenever he makes the right motion and hits his prostate. Chanyeol gives up on staying lowered, raising his torso fully as he rides, and Jongin appreciates the view, watching with sharp eyes every twitch of muscle on Chanyeol’s back every time he grinds his hips in fluid movements.

Jongin brings his hands forward to roam blindly around Chanyeol’s abdomen, thighs and ass, stealing furtive caresses that add up to the pleasure of penetration and make Chanyeol arc his body against Jongin. He lowers both his hands to Chanyeol’s ass, fondling his cheeks and pinching delicately at the scarce meat there. Jongin gets a surprised shrill in exchange when he pulls the globes slightly apart just to see how his cock is perfectly engulfed in that delicious warmth.

Chanyeol looks over his shoulder. “Kai, touch your nipples,” he orders and what could Jongin do?

Jongin complies with Chanyeol’s wishes without a second thought, biting his own lips to restrain his groans because he wants to hear Chanyeol’s powerful whimpers. He has a hand around his own cock, jerking himself off lazily, and Jongin knows Chanyeol’s close because his hips are faster, and he rides Jongin’s cock with gusto, raising himself high to keep only the head of Jongin’s dick inside his hole before going down with all his might.

It’s heavenly to have Chanyeol riding his dick like this, like he’s the one in charge bringing himself pleasure; however, it’s equally excruciating being unable to meet Chanyeol’s rutting and Jongin wants to see his face when he comes.

“Chany… Let’s switch,” Jongin asks and Chanyeol nods in agreement, raising himself out of Jongin’s cock and groaning loudly when he’s emptied.

Chanyeol lies down on the pillows near the headboard, and places one of them under his hips. Jongin, in the meantime, gets more lube on his cock as he kneels by Chanyeol’s side.

“Wow, when you said you use a lot of lube, you actually meant a lot,” Chanyeol giggles as he spreads his legs invitingly for Jongin.

Jongin puts his tongue out at the snickering, but he easily forgets their bickering in favor of placing both hands behind Chanyeol’s knees to position himself between his legs. Jongin, like the romantic he is, stares deeply into Chanyeol’s eyes when he slides in again.

Chanyeol cranes his head up and no words are needed for Jongin, who leans down to kiss Chanyeol lovingly as he bottoms out. Both of them groan into their lip lock when Jongin’s hips meet Chanyeol’s ass with a satisfying squelch, dick slipping into his channel easily because of the excess of lube.

Jongin starts thrusting, paying attention to Chanyeol’s every reaction. Chanyeol seems to be too busy nibbling at Jongin’s bottom lip, interrupting his oral fixation on a couple of occasions to moan and gasp as Jongin tries different angles to find that one that gets Chanyeol riled up.

Chanyeol’s long legs circle Jongin’s waist, hips thrusting back against Jongin’s own grinding, and he plants kisses along Jongin’s hot neck, feeling his veins pulse under his lips due to his current exertion. Chanyeol snakes a hand between their sweaty bodies to reach Jongin’s nipple.

“Fuck!” Jongin yelps, his thrusting missing a beat.

Chanyeol laughs at his reaction, but right then soothes his touches, stroking Jongin’s abdomen more carefully and getting back to kissing his shoulders and neck. Suddenly, Chanyeol interrupts his pecks to moan and Jongin knows he’s found the spot, so he aims for it in the next thrusts.

Chanyeol curls his toes and screws his eyes shut, mouth pressed into a tense line when he tries to keep it quiet.

“I wanna hear you,” Jongin reminds him.

In a daze, it takes Chanyeol a second to understand what Jongin’s told him, and then he parts his lips reluctantly to groan in rhythm with Jongin’s thrusts. His sounds of pleasure mix with the other noises in the room, like the slap of Jongin’s balls against Chanyeol’s ass and the sound of the headboard hitting the wall repeatedly.

Jongin pants as he overworks his hips, giving all he’s got as he hammers Chanyeol’s prostate away. Chanyeol locks Jongin in a tight embrace with his gangly members, chest to chest, getting them all warm and comfortable into each other. Chanyeol’s big hands grab helplessly at Jongin’s back, and Jongin’s certain he’ll find red lines across it the next day.

Jongin’s close to his orgasm; he’s been holding it for too long and he’s full to the brim, ready to spill into the condom. The beep is back inside his head and it’s relentless in his ears, it shrieks in loop faster and louder than ever before. Jongin can barely hear Chanyeol's moans, but he makes out some words from his lips when Chanyeol gets there.

Chanyeol cries out, eyes shut in pleasure, “Kai, Kai, I’m gonna—”

“My name's actually Kim Jongin,” Jongin is honest for once. He says what should have been said way before, and feels a weight lift off his shoulders. Jongin should trust in Chanyeol.

And then Chanyeol is coming so hard, but he still has half a mind to open his eyes and stare at Jongin. He seems shocked, big eyes wide open taking over his face. That's not the reaction that Jongin expected. Before Jongin can do anything, everything turns black.

And then Jongin is

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤfall

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤing.

*

*

*

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Jongin opens his eyes, startled. His sight is hurt by the sudden pale light in the room, and he blinks a couple of times to relieve the burning in his corneas. Unable to make out any figures for the time being, the rational side of Jongin’s brain turns to his feeling of touch—what’s happened to his body? Jongin’s head is resting on top of something soft—a pillow, maybe? Did Jongin pass out after his orgasm? Where is Chanyeol? Why does the beep sound like it’s out of Jongin’s mind?

Too many questions, too few answers.

Jongin tries to shake his head in denial, but something stops himself from completing the motion. Jongin brings a frail hand to his face and feels an annoying tube inserted to both his nostrils. There’s a tight cable near his nape that refrains Jongin’s full movements. Weird.

“Cha-Chanyeol?” Jongin calls out weakly, voice cracking in the effort to get the word out. His throat is dried as if he hasn’t drunk a single drop of water in years.

There’s no call back. Jongin’s mind is surprisingly silent, like it’s never been in the last weeks since he met Chanyeol. It’s ironic how he internally pleaded so much to get his own brain back yet, when he finally has peace of mind, he feels empty. Like a part of him is missing.

Panic starts to rise inside Jongin; he doesn’t know what’s happening, he doesn’t know what to make of this situation. His brain comes up with silly theories, like maybe Chanyeol drugged him, maybe someone set Jongin up, maybe it was all a dream and they never met at the love motel. All these hypotheses only get Jongin even more nervous, dry throat closing in on itself when he threatens to start crying.

One moment Jongin is on the verge of an orgasm, the next he feels like he’s been thrown into a laundry machine, mind spinning around and unable to make a single coherent thought. He doesn’t know how to process anything. Jongin pants loudly, yet there’s no sound in here other than his desperate, paced up breathing.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

When Jongin’s eyes at last grow used to the bright illumination, the first thing he sees is a dark screen filled with too many graphics and numbers, all data jumbled up in a small monitor by (what appears to be) the bed in which Jongin’s lying right now. Jongin doesn’t know the meaning behind all those curvy and zigzag lines, but something catches his eye. The beep sounds whenever a green line spikes on the display.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

The beep comes from the machine attached to that screen. It isn’t echoing inside Jongin’s head anymore.

That machine is a heart-rate monitor.

Jongin sinks his head back into the pillow, welcoming its softness because he doesn’t know what to feel. It’s a white sterile room. There’s a cardiac monitor. Jongin’s attached to a bed by weird and unknown tubes.

It’s a hospital.

Jongin turns his head slightly to the other side, and finds a bedside table. There’s a flower vase decorated with charismatic orange tulips and a calendar.

And then Jongin sees it.

Jongin feels like laughing out of surprise, but when he opens his mouth and too much air gets into his vials, he cracks into a brief cough attack instead.

The calendar on the bedside table is a standard one, manufactured by the hospital itself. Jongin knows very well the logo printed on the white pages. It’s the hospital he’s used to going to whenever he feels unwell. It’s the same hospital Jongin went to when he hurt his ankle and heard the beep louder than ever before in his head.

Maybe it has something to do with the hospital? My guess is that the dimensions weaken if you’re in the same place at the same time.

Baekhyun was right. Baekhyun was right all along.

Jongin never fully understood his friend’s words because of his own innate difficulty when it comes to physics, but now everything falls into place. Chanyeol is from another Universe. They’re connected by their minds, despite the dimensions that set them apart. Fine.

Think, Nini, think, he chants in his brain, trying to get the clogged engines to work after so long.

Jongin must be in the same dimension as Chanyeol; that’s the only plausible explanation for his sudden change of scenery.

Silly of Jongin not to presume that Chanyeol’s dimension had its own Jongin—who seems to be bedridden in a hospital for whatever reason. So the beep used to resonate in Jongin’s head on the other side because he’s also connected to this Jongin, from Chanyeol’s Universe. And now Jongin has been teleported through dimensions for whatever reason. Okay, okay, it makes sense (does it, really?).

Were their orgasms that powerful?

Before Jongin can dive deeper into his confusing thoughts and decipher them, the door opens.

“Oh, my God!” Jongin’s mom runs towards him, her heels clicking loudly and disrupting the room’s previous silence. “Nini, Nini, can you hear me?” She asks multiple times, warm hands going to Jongin’s face and caressing his cheeks. A weird ache blooms in Jongin’s skin, and he winces before he can stop it. “Oh, I’m so sorry, my kid,” his mom keeps her hands to herself, but her anxious eyes give away how eager she is at touching him again. “Did you just wake up? I can’t believe you’re actually awake!...” Fat tears fall from her eyes, and Jongin watches the whole scene flabbergasted since he can’t use his voice properly.

“Mom…” He croaks with too much effort. “I lo-love you,” Jongin stutters and he doesn’t know why he feels like telling her that, but somehow he senses these three words are needed right now.

“My baby…” She lays one hand on his hair carefully so as not to have him in pain again. “I thought you would never wake up. I thought you were gone for good,” she chokes on the words, lips twisted in a painful grimace that has Jongin crying in the very next second.

“So-sorry,” he struggles to say in his raspy voice.

“Don’t say you’re sorry. You didn’t do anything wrong, babe. Everything’s fine now. You’re here,” each sentence of his mom’s is punctuated by a loud sob.

What happened?, Jongin wants to ask, but his voice fails. So he raises his eyebrows questioningly, and even that small twitch makes his face hurt.

“Honey… I should call a doctor,” she evades the question, pressing one of the many buttons of the many machines nearby.

“Mom…” Jongin whines.

“Shh, I don’t want to stress you out for no reason,” she strokes his hair once more in a reassuring way, and Jongin allows himself to close his eyes.

Jongin loses track of time when he opens his eyes again. He doesn’t know if he’s fallen asleep, he doesn’t know if it’s been ten seconds or ten hours since his last talk with his mom. The hospital room feels cramped now—his mom is still here, and now there are also his sisters Jungah and Jaein, who are all standing before a tall lady clad in a white coat. They’re whispering to each other agitatedly, and Jongin’s ears can’t make out anything, so he just watches in silence, still disoriented.

“He opened his eyes! Nini!” Jungah fusses when she glazes at him, punching at Jaein’s shoulder to grab her attention. The noise sounds even louder to Jongin’s ears and makes him grimace reflexively under the stares of all the women in the room.

The lady in white throws a careful glance in Jongin’s direction before turning to his family, “I think it’s better if I speak to Jongin in private?...” The doctor says kindly and they all get the message.

“See you later, Nini!” Jaein whispers to him as they leave the room, waving animatedly to Jongin. He responds with a small nod of his head to both his sisters, a shy grin curving his lips.

The doctor waits for them to close the door before walking over to Jongin. “Hello, Jongin. Nice to meet you,” she opens a polite smile as she gets the medical record from its holder at the foot of the bed. “My name’s Seo Juhyun and I’m your doctor.”

“Hi,” Jongin mutters and he’s glad he doesn’t stutter. His voice is still pretty weak, though.

“Do you remember how you got here?” Dr. Seo asks while maintaining eye contact.

“No.”

“So you don’t know why you’re here,” she presumes.

“My mom didn’t tell me anything,” Jongin explains in a murmur, anxious for what comes next. He’ll finally get to speak to someone who seems to know what’s going on. Jongin needs to understand what has happened—that and find Chanyeol, too.

Dr. Seo approaches him with a couple of steps, face neutral but eyes reflecting sheer caution. She takes in a deep breath, “Jongin, you were run over by a bicycle and you hit your head. And then you went into a coma.” Juhyun eyes the medical files in hand and then the calendar on the bedside table, “You’ve been here for 15 days.”

15 days. So since he first heard Chanyeol’s voice. The puzzle pieces are being put together.

“Okay. That’s… Fine,” Jongin speaks for the sake of talking, too overwhelmed taking in all the information possible.

The doctor’s features soften when she proceeds, “Your coma was… Unprecedented. Usually, when patients are about to wake up, there are some telltale signs, like fingers moving or eyes opening from time to time. You didn’t do any of that. Honestly, our expectations weren’t very optimistic, so I’m glad you’re fine.”

Jongin was in a coma for two weeks. That’s quite a lot.

“Coma… It’s a very serious word, don’t you think?” Jongin jokes because he’s nervous. He doesn’t know how to react to it, he doesn't know what people expect from him. “Why do I feel so okay, then?” Despite his pain and unexpected tiredness, Jongin feels fine. He isn’t perfectly fine, but it’s like a mild hangover.

“We don’t know,” Dr. Seo hesitates, giving him a tight-lipped smile. “We don’t know why you went into a coma. We ran blood tests, CT scans… And there’s no brain damage, the fall didn’t harm you on a mental level. Your injuries are all superficial. Throughout your coma your reflexes were excellent, it was like… You were just sleeping,” she sounds truly impressed.

“I don’t know… I didn’t do anything,” Jongin is confused. He expected more explanations, yet the questions only multiply like rabbits in his head. He just wants to stop feeling lost, is that too much to ask?

Dr. Seo’s eyes are assuring before Jongin’s evident chaos, “Don’t worry, we are aware that you yourself can’t give us the answers we need to figure this out. Maybe we should appreciate this miracle?” She leans over and stage whispers, “Please, don’t tell anyone I said ‘miracle’. People look down on religious doctors.” Her joke gets a chuckle out of Jongin, and her lips spread in a more authentic smile.

Jongin’s happy to realize that his throat isn’t as painful as before. He can laugh and it doesn’t feel like someone’s skewering him from the inside out with small needles. That’s progress.

“Everything’s okay with your body, but staying that long inactive may have consequences, so I advise you to do physical therapy for a couple of months.” The doctor lowers her gaze for a second to read his medical record, “Your mom told me you’re a dancer, so, please, don’t push yourself too hard and avoid doing any exercises without supervision.”

Jongin nods at her recommendations.

“Last but not least…” Juhyun suddenly seems apprehensive, as if fearing for Jongin’s reaction. “Your swelling should go down soon. We can give you pain relievers, but it’s preferable that you don’t use anything on your skin, such as cream and ointment, because it may cause irritation and make things worse.”

Jongin frowns, “Swelling? What swelling?”

Dr. Seo’s eyebrows are drawn together in a hard line when she stares at Jongin for a moment, before opening the drawer of the bedside table to get a mirror. She hands it to Jongin wordlessly.

Jongin is reluctant to meet his gaze through the mirror—he has no idea what to expect. When he finally does it, he takes in every detail of his face. There’s some swelling, definitely—his cheeks are slightly puffed, especially near the corner of his jaw. Jongin holds the mirror at different angles to analyze the damage, and he finds a bump on his left temple.

He brings a wandering hand to the lump and taps at it with his finger, holding back a wince when he feels that (now) familiar pain blossoming in his face. However, the cherry on the top is the green-going-to-yellow bruise that paints the area under Jongin’s left eye. That whole combination makes Jongin’s face nearly unrecognizable. And what stuns him the most is that he’s like that now… Two weeks ago he must have looked way worse.

“Wow…” Jongin says dumbly as he puts the mirror away on the bedside table.

Dr. Seo purses her lips in a failed attempt to hide away her uneasiness, “You’re fine, Jongin? You’re really fine?”

Jongin decides to be honest, “I think I am… For now.”

“We’ll have you under observation for a couple of days just to see how you’ll turn out, okay? And then you’re good to go,” Dr. Seo tells him. Jongin wishes he could be discharged soon… However, he didn’t expect things to go easily, so he’s conformed. “But it’s important that you rest, so avoid stressful situations. It’s better if you only have one visitor at a time,” Dr. Seo warns Jongin as she walks away. “Anything you need, just press that button to call our team. See you soon, Jongin,” Juhyun opens the door behind her and bows before leaving.

Jongin’s mom walks into the room, and Jongin hears Jungah from the hallway whine something like “I wanna see him toooooo”. Jongin smiles to himself.

“The doctor told us to leave you alone for a moment so we won’t disturb you…” His mom complains as she stands by his bed. Jongin holds out his hand, careful with the IV needle, and his mom holds it warmly in between her own.

“I’m all right, mom,” Jongin comforts her, and she sniffles in response, holding back a cry. Jongin squeezes her fingers back in their hold.

“I know you are. And I’m so, so grateful for that. I don’t know who to thank for this,” she releases his hand to dry her tears and get something out of the back pocket of her pants. “Here’s your cell phone,” she hands the device to Jongin. “The doctor said it would help you feel normal,” his mom smirks at her own words.

“Thank you, mom…” Jongin presses a button to turn on the display, and sees the number of unread notifications on the lock screen. Wow. Jongin sighs while looking at the tulips on the bedside table. He’ll be stuck in bed for God knows how long, so he has a lot of time to check all of them.

Jongin’s mom misunderstands his sigh, “Beautiful flowers, aren’t they? Your friends have good taste.” She takes a few steps from the bed, reluctant to leave, “Please, rest, my boy,” she wishes and Jongin smiles to appease her.

When the door closes once and for all, Jongin opens his message app. The first person that comes to his mind is Kyungsoo—how must he feel about Jongin’s accident? It’s another dimension, but Kyungsoo is still Kyungsoo—loyal, worried and responsible Kyungsoo. Jongin taps their chat with plans to send away a couple of texts telling him he’s fine, but he finds unread messages instead.

Do Kyungsoo

7:34 AM: Nini

7:34 AM: Fuck

7:35 AM: I’m sorry I didn’t wake up

7:35 AM: See you at uni?

8:00 AM: Nini?

8:42 AM: Are you mad at me?

9:01 AM: I know you’re upset, but that’s not funny.

9:27 AM: Jongin, answer me or I’ll call your mother.

10:00 AM: Fine.

3:00 PM: I just found out about what happened... I should've woken up. I'm sorry, I hope you get well soon.

Jongin eyes the date the messages were sent. It’s that day, around two weeks ago, when he went to the coffee shop with Kyungsoo to have breakfast before class. However, in this dimension—in Chanyeol’s Universe—it seems that Kyungsoo never tagged along, so Jongin left home by himself. And then…

Jongin, you were run over by a bicycle and you hit your head.

And then there was no one to get Jongin out of the way of that cyclist.

If Baekhyun’s guess is right and every decision creates a new Universe, Jongin has finally found out what set his and Chanyeol’s dimensions apart.

A single, silly decision not to wake up Kyungsoo.

Jongin eyes the tulips with a frown, deep in thought. He knows for a fact that Kyungsoo doesn't give a flying fuck about flowers, whereas Baekhyun only knows roses, if that. Then what so-called friend has left them here?

"You like them? I wanted you to open your eyes to something colorful... This room's too monochromatic."

Jongin raises his eyes, startled, and his gaze falls on a hesitant Chanyeol by the door. He’s wearing the same clothing he wore to the love motel, hands fidgeting and body swaying on the spot nervously. So he rushed here?, Jongin asks himself because he can’t find his voice.

“I’m sorry for showing all of a sudden… I got in super quickly when I saw your family distracted in the waiting room. I’m kind of avoiding them,” Chanyeol blushes and averts his eyes when Jongin stares at him openly, still baffled by his unexpected visit. “I just… Had the feeling that you had finally woken up, so I had to come here to check for myself. And here you are! Awake.”

“What?...” Jongin hears Chanyeol’s words, but it’s like he can’t process the information they hold.

Chanyeol takes careful steps when he approaches Jongin’s bed, as if befriending a frightened animal, “I know it’s all super weird because you have no idea who I am, but I have something to tell you—”

“Chany… It’s me,” Jongin cuts off Chanyeol, setting his cell phone on the bedside table to turn his full attention to him.

Chanyeol’s eyes widen in realization, “Kai? How—Aren’t you supposed to be on the other side? On your side?” He questions, almost in an accusatory tone.

Jongin shrugs with difficulty against the pillows. “I don’t know. I just woke up here, after… Telling you my real name,” he reveals, a bit ashamed for admitting he’s lied to Chanyeol.

“You disappeared before my eyes, Ka—Jongin. And that’s when I knew I should visit you here,” Chanyeol explains, face filled with sheer uneasiness.

Jongin’s eyes narrow into slits, “How come you know me in your dimension? You never told me that.” Something in Chanyeol's eyes falters at Jongin’s question. “Grab a chair, let’s talk,” Jongin settles, gesturing to the chair in the corner of the room. Chanyeol looks like he could run away at any moment, shifting his weight on his feet, so Jongin would rather have him quiet so they can talk.

Chanyeol does as he’s told and sits near the bedside table, and Jongin just has to turn his head to the side to see him.

“Thank you for the flowers,” Jongin says to ease the mood, and Chanyeol’s dimple shows up in his face for a brief second. It’s cute, but Jongin must get straight to the point, “How did we meet, Chanyeol?”

Chanyeol bites his bottom lip, reluctant to answer Jongin. “Actually… We have never met,” Chanyeol lowers his eyes and starts picking his cuticles. “I ran into you by chance when I was doing a delivery. I ran you over with my bicycle,” he raises his face to see Jongin’s reaction.

So that’s how Jongin ended up in a hospital bed. Chanyeol was the delivery worker who would have run him over in his own dimension if it weren’t for Kyungsoo. Jongin leans back on the pillow, seeking comfort in its softness yet his tension isn’t physical, but emotional so the gesture does little to appease his inner turmoil.

Chanyeol misreads Jongin’s silence for disapproval, “But I didn’t know it was you when we started talking! I only found out when you told me your real name!” There’s no bite in Chanyeol’s voice, only confusion and disorientation. “I mean!... Look at your face, Jongin, look what I’ve done to you,” he laments, voice garbled.

That tone reminds Jongin of how serious Chanyeol sounded when they exchanged pains in the dark night. “So… This is what you were talking about that night. About doing something wrong and not paying for the price,” Jongin assumes.

“Yeah…” Chanyeol shrinks in the chair in shame, his stance so small when everything about him is actually so huge. “That’s also why I snuck into your room right now, I’m sorry. I was afraid your mom would forbid me from seeing you now because of your trauma.”

“Trauma? I don’t have a trauma. I’m confused as fuck, but it isn’t a trauma,” Jongin retorts, lips pressed in a thin line. He’s been awake for less than a couple of hours and he’s already sick of people treating him like a china doll.

“Jongin,” Chanyeol’s features are tired, and there’s an annoyed wrinkle in between his eyebrows. “I just told you I ran over you. My recklessness almost killed you. You can’t tell me you’re fine,” he spits the last word as if it’s an insult.

“It’s a lot to take in,” Jongin gives in. “But I don’t feel… Wrong.” It’s an awful choice of words, yet Jongin feels like there’s no right term to describe his current state of mind. He feels like rising back to the surface after being underwater for too long, skin wrinkly and ears impaired. It’s like finally getting a Math problem right after years ruminating it. It’s a realization.

Chanyeol scoffs, “Please, Jongin—”

“No, don’t you dare to start sulking now, Chanyeol,” Jongin raises a finger before him, IV needle making the move look less menacing than intended. “I stand by what I told you that night. You aren’t the one to blame. Accidents happen. You never planned any of that.” Jongin brings a hand to Chanyeol’s huge ones and grips his long fingers when Chanyeol tries to get away from Jongin’s grasp. “Do you know why none of this happened in my dimension? Because I tripped on a pair of shoes when I stepped out of bed that morning. And then Kyungsoo woke up, so we went out together and he pulled me out of the bike’s way. Maybe there’s a Universe where Kyungsoo was too distracted to avoid the accident despite him being there. Would you claim it was Kyungsoo’s fault? Or that it was my own because I didn’t trip on my shoes in your dimension? There are so many possibilities. You can’t point fingers. You can’t own it all up.”

Jongin’s breathless after speaking that much, even panting a little when he finishes talking. His voice is becoming gradually hoarse, maybe because he’s been using it too much after such a long period of inactivity; however, that limitation doesn’t tone down the power in his speech.

Chanyeol sighs out loud at his words, and Jongin raises an eyebrow pointedly, as if challenging him to talk back. Jongin’s gaze is blazing, stare sharp as a knife after making his point.

Jongin resumes when Chanyeol remains quietly holding his hand, “It's in your hands whether you’ll spend the rest of your life miserable because of that accident.”

“Jongin,” Chanyeol’s voice cracks midway through his call, lips quivering and copious tears ready to spill from his watery eyes. Low sobs erupt from Chanyeol’s throat when the first tear rolls down his face, leaving a wet streak in its wake.

Jongin changes tactics and lessens his lecture because maybe he’s been too hard on Chanyeol. “The doctor told me I’m fine,” he assures, squeezing Chanyeol’s fingers. “I’ll be discharged soon and then I can get back to dancing and do all the things I did before. Everything’s fine, Chanyeol,” Jongin looks deeply into Chanyeol’s swollen red eyes. “So what’s the use of beating yourself over this?” He pouts.

“Jongin, I… I’m so in love with you,” Chanyeol sniffles, shyly turning his face away from Jongin’s staring. He finally lays his free hand over Jongin’s, and Jongin appreciates the added warmth. He’s missed it. It hasn’t been that long since Jongin was last touched by Chanyeol, but he’s been craving it in the back of his mind since he woke up like an addict. Jongin can’t live without Chanyeol. No, not anymore.

“Chanyeol, I’ve already told you I want you,” Jongin’s cheeks tinge slightly in red. It was embarrassing to tell him that when Chanyeol was a sole voice in his head, and it’s even more mortifying now in person. “I want you whole. Your failures and successes, your flaws and virtues. But I can’t have you if you won’t give yourself a chance,” Jongin’s sincere.

Chanyeol takes in a deep breath to compose himself, and the tears have stopped streaming down his face. He opens a mild smile, cheekbones pink in timidness. “Okay…” This single word is muttered so low that Jongin can barely hear it, but he still does anyway—and it doesn’t fail at fueling Jongin with hope.

He grins slightly, “Promise me. Promise me you won't drown yourself in angst because of that ever again.”

“I don’t think I can promise you that…” Chanyeol falters, big hands twitching around Jongin’s grasp.

Jongin purses his lips, “Then promise me you’ll never leave me because of that. I don't love you in spite of your mistakes. I love you even with them.”

Chanyeol’s eyes brighten behind his dried tears, “I promise you I’ll never tell you ‘over and out’ ever again in my life.”

The certainty in Chanyeol’s voice takes Jongin’s breath away because he feels so assured. He’s gotten Chanyeol. Chanyeol is right here, right now, and he isn’t going anywhere.

Jongin’s peace of mind is interrupted by a fast sequence of beeps, as if the heart monitor had just gone crazy.

Chanyeol turns to the machine with alarmed eyes, “Oh, my God! Are you having a heart attack?”

“What? No, I'm completely fine,” Jongin rolls his eyes at Chanyeol’s absurd question, but there’s a hint of redness on his cheeks. He finds it so embarrassing that the monitor is giving away all his excitement and nervousness.

“Then make it stop!” Chanyeol orders as he stares at the machine without knowing what to do.

“I can't control my heartbeat, you dumb!” Jongin protests, and lets go of Chanyeol’s hands just for the sake of hitting him playfully in the shoulder with a light punch. However, Jongin is soon chuckling away his own bickering because he finds the whole situation so funny.

Jongin’s giggles turn into full laughter because there’s no more “over and out”, no more farewells and no more unmeasurable distances between them two. Chanyeol is here and now as a person, and no longer as a weird voice in the background of his brain. And they have a long way to walk together before them.

If Jongin was anxious at first, as if his heart was closed in a tight fist, that grasp has lost its power and no longer disturbs him. He’s free of worries and he’s free to feel however and whatever he wishes to feel.

Whereas Chanyeol has always been so obsessed with finding the purpose behind their connection, Jongin never truly cared about that… And he still doesn’t. However, if Jongin were to make something out of his last two crazy weeks, it would be something along the lines of welcoming fate and not sweating over accidents—they’re an important part of life.

No one truly knows the effect their decisions hold over people’s lives. The flap of a butterfly can cause either a hurricane or a gentle breeze, but should the butterfly be guilty of the hurricane's destruction? That’s the beauty of destiny: the best things are never planned, but happen by chance—and there’s no way to track their source. Things simply come about, and that’s fine.

If being run over has brought Chanyeol into Jongin’s life… When life gives you lemons, make some lemonade.

What triggered this whole happening will forever remain a mystery, but that isn’t a problem—and Jongin doesn’t intend to go through sleepless nights chewing over this. Maybe it has something to do with the planets’ alignments. Or there’s someone up there who likes to play with people’s lives. Perhaps Chanyeol is right and fate does exist, but Jongin won’t give him that satisfaction.

Or maybe… It all simply happened because Jongin tripped on his shoes that morning.

Who knows?