Kyungsoo no longer waited for Chanyeol to eat together. He’d eat by himself and leave the food for Chanyeol to have later. Kyungsoo rarely started conversations or made an effort to carry one, merely answering with short sentences if that was needed.
Kyungsoo was already no longer sleeping alongside Chanyeol, letting him sleep alone while he remained awake, sleeping only when Chanyeol was awake again.
When Kyungsoo saw Chanyeol trying to go in for a hug or a kiss, he’d shift and move away before that could even happen. Kyungsoo no longer wished to have either, ignoring Chanyeol’s advances and initiation.
When Chanyeol approached Kyungsoo to ask for a few drops of blood, he would glare in a judging manner at Chanyeol and hesitate but eventually caved in because he didn’t want to raise suspicions for now.
It was hard to even look at Chanyeol in the eye, least to say to be intimate, because Kyungsoo would be flooded with the thoughts he wished he didn’t have now.
And it wasn’t hard or too long before Chanyeol started to notice how Kyungsoo was now keeping a distance from him.
It was most obvious on one dry winter afternoon in January in their home in Germany. Chanyeol was locked up in the washroom with his upper half hunched over the sink, retching and throwing up spots of blood and an almost complete camellia flower into the marble basin.
As he did so, he would feel a sharp stabbing pain in his chest area as the choking feeling rose from his lungs and towards his mouth, before the flowers were spat out from his mouth. It was excruciating and not even the suppressant potions seemed to help much anymore.
Chanyeol never wanted something to end so badly and yet not wish for it to end at the same time. He just wanted to rid of the pain but he wasn’t done living yet. He still wanted to live but his punishment waiting at the end of this suffering was his imminent death and that was for sure.
Using a simple spell, Chanyeol had cast a shadow onto the mirror above the sink so it wouldn’t reflect his haggard and sick looking face. Chanyeol couldn’t even bear to look at himself in the mirror at this point. It would just make him feel even worse.
Chanyeol picked up one of the camellia flowers, alongside the petals scattered in the bowl of the sink. There were spots of his blood on the petals, blending in with the dark red of the flower almost seamlessly. The flower was almost fully formed, just missing a petal or two from the symmetrical pattern.
Seeing this, Chanyeol knew his end was drawing even closer but yet he couldn’t stop to admire that this was indeed a beautiful flower which held a powerful meaning amongst magicians like him.
For a moment, while holding the blood-stained camellias in his palm, Chanyeol pondered if the famous dark magician “Camellia” had really died in the crossfire of the war or if they succumbed to a painful death like the one waiting for him.
The Hanahaki disease did not discriminate among magicians; whether they were good, grey or tended to the dark side, whether they were old or young or whether they were strong or otherwise.
In the end, almost everything could be created, conjured or reversed with magic but not feelings and especially that of love. And unrequited love was so ironically, the only thing keeping the check and balance which prevented magicians from being ridiculously omnipotent in the mortal world.
Chanyeol slipped one of the almost formed camellia flowers into his pocket, wiped off the blood and saliva from his mouth, washed his face to freshen up a little and made sure to rinse and rid the sink clean from the physical evidence of the Hanahaki disease.
The last thing he wanted to do now was to give Kyungsoo the scare of his life if he ever found out about the disease Chanyeol had been trying to hide from him for almost a year now.
Chanyeol first discovered he had the Hanahaki disease on the night before the first day of spring, knowing he’d have a year to live at most after that. Now, the following spring was just a few months away and while he did admit that the flowers Kyungsoo loved were beautiful indeed, it wasn’t more so when they were blooming in his lungs instead.
For the better or the worse, Chanyeol finally left the washroom after being cooped up in there for over an hour, to find Kyungsoo standing in the corridor just right outside the washroom.
Kyungsoo looked rather unbothered, reading a spell cookbook as he leaned against a wall with his ankles crossed over the other.
Chanyeol was stunned, his eyes were round and wide as his hand immediately went into his pocket to make sure the flower was still in there for some reason.
Depending on how long Kyungsoo had been out there, Chanyeol was pretty sure Kyungsoo had overheard retching, coughing fits and choking coming from him inside the washroom.
Chanyeol wasn’t fond of recalling how worried and distraught Kyungsoo had been when he caught Chanyeol during one of his coughing fits. Chanyeol was worried that this would repeat itself but he was wrong.
“How long have you been standing here?” Chanyeol had to ask, closing the door to the washroom slowly, almost as if he was dragging the entire thing out.
“I wasn’t counting. A while maybe,” Kyungsoo replied, seemingly rather uninterested in the conversation they were having. Kyungsoo didn’t look up from his book towards Chanyeol at all.
“Oh, have you been reading the entire time?” Chanyeol muttered, hiding the fact that he was a bit bothered by Kyungsoo’s display of nonchalance. He knew Kyungsoo heard him for sure but the latter didn’t even seem to care or even address it, not unlike the last time it had happened.
“Yeah, obviously,” Kyungsoo rolled his eyes, “What is it do you want? More blood?”
“No, not at all. I just wanted to ask,” Chanyeol was defensive.
“Fine,” Kyungsoo shrugged a shoulder, returning back to his book and not making any obvious effort to even ask something or keep a conversation going either.
Chanyeol returned to his study after that, padding away softly and feeling quite intimidated by Kyungsoo if he was to be honest.
As Chanyeol placed the almost fully formed camellia from his pocket and into the small wooden box he had been using to keep the progress of his disease, he pondered on the last month or so.
Chanyeol wasn't blind or stupid to notice that Kyungsoo was distancing himself further from Chanyeol by the day. In fact, today seemed to affirm everything he had been suspecting about Kyungsoo in the past month.
Chanyeol was pretty certain that Kyungsoo found out about something that he was trying to hide from the latter; be it about his identity or be it about the circumstances of how they came to be "married" to each other. He just didn't know the extent of how much Kyungsoo was aware of the situation.
It wasn't really surprising to Chanyeol and he knew he was largely at fault but it still hurt him, nonetheless. Even if he felt like a hypocrite to even say that his feelings were hurt. Chanyeol didn't see himself as a victim but as a perpetrator who was now paying for his sins.
Chanyeol knew his feelings were real, that being the only thing magic couldn't create. He was aware and realized how much he loved and wanted to be with Kyungsoo.
With his life slowly withering away, Chanyeol wanted to live out his final days beside Kyungsoo. Even if Kyungsoo was giving him the cold shoulder and suspected him now, Chanyeol had decided that his place was right here beside Kyungsoo until the end, even if it had come to him by force.
On a snowy Sunday morning at their home in mid-February, Chanyeol was sitting on the couch in the living room, with a warm blanket draped over his legs while a fire nymph kept the hearth warm and burning. Kyungsoo had basically ignored Chanyeol's request to let the nymph into the house but he wasn't too bothered to care about that now.
It was the couch that faced a window with the view of the gardens outside. It was winter but Kyungsoo never failed to keep his garden alive and thriving with plants and flowers appropriate for the season. Now, in the winter, it was red Japanese camellias, much like the ones growing in Chanyeol's lungs.
Kyungsoo entered the house shortly later, returning from the gardens after tending to his flowers, even in the snow.
"Hey," Chanyeol greeted, nodding his head slightly at Kyungsoo.
"Hey," Kyungsoo repeated in return, hanging up his coat on the hook and then taking off his snow-stained shoes at the doorway.
"What are you up to now?" Chanyeol asked from the couch at Kyungsoo across the room from him, attempting to make small talk to keep a conversation going, something he was accustomed to doing in the past few months since Kyungsoo found out about the truth of his identity.
"-nothing," Kyungsoo replied, taking off his gloves now, "I think I'll read, maybe."
"Do you want to come and sit with me here for a while?" Chanyeol suggested, patting the empty space on the couch beside him, "It's been a while since we did something together."
"You mean just sitting and staring at the wall while I waste my time?" Kyungsoo dryly chuckled, throwing his gloves onto a console desk, almost as if he was very visibly annoyed at Chanyeol's proposition.
Chanyeol was hurt by Kyungsoo's sharp response and dismissal but he was used to it, even expecting it sometimes. He couldn't say he was disappointed anymore at this point.
Chanyeol didn't dare to say anything further or insist that Kyungsoo spend time with him, even if it were the last few weeks of his life. He had dragged Kyungsoo into his life by force and without the latter's consent. This was the reality of his actions, which Chanyeol had to face.
Keeping his head down, Chanyeol played around with the wedding band on his left ring finger, when he felt the couch shift beside him by the weight of someone sitting down on it.
Chanyeol almost smiled and his heart jumped a little to see Kyungsoo settling down on the couch beside him, staring out at the soft falling snow and the garden in view outside the window. Kyungsoo turned down the offer to come under the blanket with him but Chanyeol was satisfied enough.
"What are you up to?" Kyungsoo spoke up first, being the one to start the conversation now.
"-not much, just resting and sitting around," Chanyeol replied, looking to Kyungsoo at his side and then towards the floor, diverting his gaze quickly as he continued to restlessly play with the wedding band on his finger, admittedly a bit nervous as his fingers clutched onto the material of the blanket.
"Oh, okay," Kyungsoo replied, leaning back against the couch, trying to relax but still coming off as rather tense.
Chanyeol didn't know what else to say either and chose to withhold his silence.
There was a short moment of silence between them where nothing was said. Chanyeol grasped onto the blankets unconsciously, as if it was his only anchor to keep himself from bursting because of all the emotions he was feeling.
Kyungsoo had a hand propped up beneath his chin and he was shaking his leg, faster as the seconds passed by them.
The air was heavy; the silence between them was akin to tension. There was obviously something that had to be talked about but nothing was coming from Kyungsoo or Chanyeol at the time.
The only sounds that were heard was that of the fire nymph taking care of the hearth in the fireplace, making sure it was burning and radiating heat properly. Kyungsoo's feet could be heard tapping against the floorboards as his feet continued to shake. Occasionally, Chanyeol would cough a little, sputtering, but that was it.
The soft, sticky snow falling outside dampened all the ambient noise, muffling the atmosphere even in the warm confines of their home.
Kyungsoo shifted while sitting on the couch, visibly uncomfortable but acting it off. Chanyeol almost flinched when Kyungsoo moved, not even sure what he was afraid of. But he did manage to regain his composure before Kyungsoo noticed it, or maybe Kyungsoo did but just wasn't addressing it.
"So...," Kyungsoo cleared his throat, only pretending because he didn't need to, "-are we opening the shop on Monday?"
"-yeah, if nothing urgent comes up," Chanyeol answered after a slight pause.
"Alright," Kyungsoo responded, nodding his head a bit and continuing to fix his gaze towards the view of his garden through the window. Even in the snow and with the occasionally chilly winds, magical barriers protected his flowers from the extremes of nature, appearing like a light golden and transparent dome above his garden beds.
After some more silence with the rift between them still prominently there, Chanyeol gulped and dared himself to ask, "Did you want to ask about something else?"
"Yeah," Kyungsoo paused, "I do."
"Sure, what is it?" Chanyeol hastily added, wanting to get it over with as soon as possible.
"I-," Kyungsoo stopped, still unable to look at Chanyeol at the other end of the couch from him, before finally being able to continue his sentence, "I want to know...who I really am. Who was I, Chanyeol? Who was I before I became your 'husband'?"
"How much do you know?" Chanyeol questioned, glancing over at Kyungsoo slightly before looking out towards the window instead of gazing back at his feet or the floors.
"-to be honest, I have the general idea of it so far but not the small details like my birthday, my hobbies, my favorite season or even my favorite color," Kyungsoo revealed, "I know my name is Kyungsoo and that I'm a sorcerer who survived through the war and genocide against magicians from the 19th century. I know that I used to work in a florist owned by a lady named Jihyun just a few blocks from your antique shop. But that's it. When I woke up, I found myself already married to you and all these memories I had which you said were true, don't seem very real to me. The memories I have are like a story in a book I read and remembered. I remember them and felt like I experienced it as an observer but I know they're not real for sure. Really, who am I, Chanyeol? I'm not blaming you for anything. I just want to know."
"I don't know," Chanyeol truthfully answered, "I know you are a sorcerer, I know that you worked at the florist’s but I never knew the owner's name was Jihyun either. I knew your name but I didn't know your past, your origins or who you really were. You did try to talk to me and make friends when you moved into the neighborhood a few years ago but I never accepted your advances. I'm sorry, Kyungsoo. I wish I could answer you but I can't because I don't know anything."
Kyungsoo snickered dryly, pressing half of his hand to his face, "So, you're actually the telling truth for once. Out of everything I thought I'd feel when I hear you finally tell me the truth honestly, I didn't expect to feel disappointed like this."
"I am sorry. I don't have the answers you want," Chanyeol apologized again.
"So, where do I have to go to find the answers?" Kyungsoo turned to look at Chanyeol, smiling but yet so forlorn.
"I think Baekhyun and Jongdae might know. I know that you were acquainted with them but I'm not sure how close you were with the both of them," Chanyeol informed, "That's all I know. I wasn't close with them either. I just knew of them."
"It's fine then," Kyungsoo sighed, brushing it off as he continued to chuckle at the irony of the situation, "I just...cannot believe this is happening to me." Kyungsoo bent forward at the waist, pressing two hands to cover his face as he began to tear up, "I was actually so happy with you. I wanted it to be real. I wanted you to have the answers at least even if it is fake. I was more disappointed that all of this is not real and that you barely even know me. I don't even care that you lied."
"I am happy with you too!" Chanyeol declared, lurching towards Kyungsoo from the other end of the couch, grabbing the latter by the arm and pulling his hand away from his face, "I really and genuinely feel this way, Kyungsoo. I may not know you before this but I have come to really enjoy your company. There is not a second now that passes by where I don't think of you."
Kyungsoo looked back at Chanyeol, blinking through red tear-stained eyes he didn't bother hiding anymore, gasping, "I don't know if I can do this anymore, Chanyeol."
"Sometimes, it's alright to not know some things. Maybe this is for the better," Chanyeol tried to suggest, "-we magicians had a hard life and we've only been living in peaceful times recently, even at the cost of magical presence slowly dying out in this world. I know it is a lie for you to live like this, but you are happy, aren't you?"
Kyungsoo nodded, holding back his tears and withholding from telling Chanyeol that Baekhyun had said something almost similar to him. Baekhyun also mentioned about Kyungsoo being unhappy and sad, claiming that Kyungsoo was the happiest he had ever been even while living this lie.
"Then we can continue being together like this," Chanyeol was unable to stop the flow of tears falling from his eyes too, "Let's just forget the past and create a new life together where we're both happy. I have come to love you, Kyungsoo, and I don't want to lose you like I've lost everyone else I know. I've been alone for so long."
Unable to say anything further, Kyungsoo wrapped his arms around Chanyeol's shoulders, pulling Chanyeol into a tight embrace and letting his head to fall against his chest. Chanyeol sobbed, tugging onto Kyungsoo's shirt which was now slowly being drenched in his tears.
"It's alright, it’s okay," Kyungsoo hushed, holding Chanyeol tight and reassuringly, "I'm here now. I’m not going anywhere."
Chanyeol never cried as an adult; not when he lost his home, not when his fellow magicians were slaughtered left and right and not when he found himself struggling to just survive in a world that rejected him.
But all the years of pent up loneliness and pain was coming out at that moment after he had been holding it in for so long. And Chanyeol felt like this was the right place and the right person to break down in front of.
Kyungsoo was frustrated, distraught and lost but he couldn't hold it back either when he saw Chanyeol cry and pour out his emotions, stripping and laying himself vulnerable and bare for Kyungsoo. Not when other people were more in need than him, especially when it was Chanyeol whom he had come to care for so much.
It was now when Kyungsoo began to remember and realize how he had ended up meddling in the darker arts of sorcery, which earned him the reputation of being a dark sorcerer. It wasn't for his own again, it was for others.
Kyungsoo gave up his soul to the devil in exchange for magical prowess so he could protect and fight for the other magicians who were being massacred by the humans during the genocide. Even if it meant that when he died and was about to be buried, the earth would spit his body back out because of how tainted he had become.
Kyungsoo stuck by his word and he didn’t leave Chanyeol’s side for the rest of the day and the next, forgetting to even bother opening up the shop.
Kyungsoo allowed Chanyeol to lie down on his chest, to explore and kiss every inch of his bare skin and allowed Chanyeol to make to love him like it was their last time together.
With the Hanahaki disease making its progression and the side effects of the suppressant potions -that didn't seem to help much anymore- leaving him drowsy, Chanyeol wasn't able to stay awake for as long as he would like.
Knowing his time left alive was slowly trickling away like sand running through the crevices between his fingers, Chanyeol would have wanted to be awake for as long as possible to live out his final days to the fullest.
But he was tired and soon fell asleep in Kyungsoo’s arms, probably for the last time before next spring.
Chanyeol slept throughout the rest of winter, longer than he usually would. His physical body wasn't so much tired when compared to his mental state, which was the one probably needing the rest the most.
Kyungsoo kept the shop running while Chanyeol was asleep, catering to the needs of the clients and the regulars in place of Chanyeol. Kyungsoo didn't sleep himself, staying awake the entire time Chanyeol was asleep.
When the shop was closed on Sunday or when it was nighttime in Seoul, Kyungsoo was at home, tending to the house and a sleeping Chanyeol.