015

Iris

His aching stomach is convulsing and splintering with a disease worse than anxiety and self-hatred combined and compounded. Guilt. It’s the endless guilt that is devouring him alive as he’s sitting here with his clammy hands on his face, his elbows on his trembling knees. His teeth are clenched, enough to make his jaw sore the next day but he doesn’t care because it’s not him who is truly in pain right now. And he knows that this is entirely his fault. This entire mess—can something so momentous even be packaged safely into such an insignificant word?—is completely his fault.

Here on this plastic chair, he sifts through his memories of the times when he wasn’t quite cooperative enough; when he failed to play his role as a good spouse and it’s slowly and painfully gnawing at his bones, threatening to draw him into the abyss and never let go.

The magnitude of the guilt that is slowly contaminating and rotting his organs is becoming a terminal illness as more people arrive. Somewhere in the far depths of his mind, he can hear the wailing and the shouting, the voices of people who are so familiar to him. There are some teardrops that are spilt now as they’re informed about what happened and his fingernails start digging into his scalp in an effort to extinguish the pain that only gets worse.

 

He knows that they’re all looking at him; they’re all trying to pinpoint his feelings about this but he can’t bear to meet their eyes, can’t even manage to utter a single sound. He doesn’t want anyone else to punish him for this but, the only person who can isn’t here right now. So he continues on his path of self-deprecation until then with things spiraling out of control and the collisions exploding into flames.


He grasps at the passing seconds but they flutter from his fingertips, seeping into the air like smoke and dissipating into his pores. Time is what he needs but also not what he wants, the clocks shattering in his eyelids with every tick. The faint smell of disinfectant and plastic is so commonplace to him but also sickening in their thorns right now. The doctor is here and they’re allowed to enter the room now but he can’t coerce his stony limbs to do it. Sehun places an urging hand on his friend’s shoulder, having been in the hospital with Luhan when the ambulance arrived, but the earth is trembling too much for Jongin to move.

The pleading hand moves to his upper arm, dragging him forcefully down the blurry hallways and into the brightly-lit room where he stands paralyzed just inside of the doorway, his muscles rigid and profusely sweating as if the immense billows of emotion are short-circuiting within him. It’s scary to even take a breath; too afraid of the imprint that he’s making within the small space where people are rushing over to the patient in the bed.

Even with fingers and love extended and offering towards him, Kyungsoo can’t do anything but cry-- cry into his hands with the sobs thundering through his lungs and slashing his heart into incomprehensible bits and pieces. And he shrugs them all away, not wanting anyone to become tainted with the filth that he thinks he is after the monster devoured him whole, leaving nothing in its wake. Because he’s surely let everyone down now; he’s lost the most important thing in their lives because--

the baby is gone.

Worried and beseeching eyes glide over to Jongin and he knows that they’re probing him again-- please do something; anything-- but he cracks under the pressure this time, unsure of anything and too fearful to take a step onto the glass shards and decomposing flesh in the netherworld.

So he runs away, out of the suffocating room and down the hallway because anywhere is safer than here.

 

-----

 

Sunlight is seeping in through the windows to create elongated checkerboard patterns on the soft carpeted floor, illuminating it slowly and casting away the turbulent oceans of midnight for the skies of morning. Spring is in full-swing now, bringing with it a mist of cleansing rain and the smell of fertile earth to bring about blooms of color.

But it’s not as if any of these things matter to Kyungsoo.

He’s cruising in the shades of gray; a barren and colorless underworld that certainly feels like death breathing icy air onto the back of his neck, ready to take him at any moment. And he wishes it would.  Neither sun nor rain can thaw it and he thinks that maybe he’s already dead but his brain hasn’t acknowledged it yet.

Eyes seeing and unseeing and he knows that the last time he really took notice of the passing of time was when his room was drenched in shadows and darkness; shades of black that have retreated to his heart for now to wait for the sun to set so that they can come and disintegrate more of his soul-- or what’s left of it.

He imagines that this must be what living in an insane asylum must feel like, the bleak and incredibly loud walls shouting at him every second of the day even when they’re the same ones he’s stared at for the greater part of his life. Wishing he could turn off the questions, turn off the voices, mute all sound and noise because all he wants is to lock out the ugliness, wash away the filth, close out all of the light. He’s yearning to cast away all of the yesterdays, the memories, the pain because he’s praying for the uncertainty to stop, to somehow halt the loathing and the anguish that keeps stabbing him even when he’s lying here, his soul bleeding into the bed sheets.

The slightest wisp of life comes as Kyungsoo sighs and rolls over on his bed, exhaustion kissing every limb but he can’t will himself to sleep when he’s so empty-- everything’s so empty. Instinctively, his hand comes to rest on his abdomen, fingertips rubbing at the gauze hiding the stitches. The sorrow starts to prickle his eyelids again as he remembers that this is where they removed his baby; the small cluster of life that ceased to exist so suddenly due to his carelessness.

The light knock on his bedroom door doesn’t even make him flinch-- because what is there to be scared of when you’ve lost everything? But even so, he tries to extinguish the droplets and suppress the sobs as his mother peeks her head in. “Kyungsoo, are you hungry? You should eat something,” she murmurs quietly.  

He shakes his head silently, burying deeper into his cocoon of blankets. She retreats carefully and stands on the other side of his bedroom door, listening to the choked sobs and cries from the hallway of their once warm home.

And it’s heartbreaking when the one person you need right now is nowhere in sight.

 

-----

 

Karma is what’s ruthlessly kicking him in the face right now with its steel-toed boots, slamming his skull against the cement and causing internal hemorrhaging, the invisible bruises blossoming across his skin. It’s collapsing his veins and sinking its sharp teeth into him, leaving his body tattered and aching but also wishing for more.

He deserves more.

Because the suffering that he’s enduring is not nearly enough to rid him of the guilt that continues to snake around him.

There’s a soft knock on his office door that he’s not sure if he’s heard correctly at first due to his paranoid and antsy brain, sleep having forsaken him in this dire time. It’s not until Luhan peeks his head through the crack and Sehun follows suit that Jongin finally realizes that he does indeed have visitors.

“Jongin...” comes the familiar voice and Jongin’s eyes are still downcast as his body stiffens, scared of human contact and the thought of broaching the taboo subject that continues to rake through his entire being with its yellowed and ugly nails. Luhan looks him over and sighs. Bloodshot eyes buried behind dark wrinkles and shaking fingers beneath sloppy clothes. “You should go be with Kyungsoo right now... You two can get through this together. The implant is undamaged so you can try again...”

Jongin’s eyebrow twitches at the name and his face takes on the form of a distressed arc, features crumpling from the emotional strain before quietly mumbling, “But what do I do...”

“If I were Kyungsoo, I’d be waiting for you to say anything at all just to know that you care--”

A flood of irritation. “--But what the hell do you say to someone who has lost their child? ‘Everything’s going to be okay’? No! It doesn’t work that way! Nothing’s going to be the same ever again and no matter how many words you say, it won’t make our child come back!” Jongin shouts, shooting up from his desk and clenching his fists. They don’t understand. They simply can’t understand how it must feel to lose a child; to blame yourself and drown in despair.

After glancing at his husband through the tangible silence that follows, Sehun clears his throat. “Sometimes it’s actions that speak louder than words. Maybe you’re the person who understands the most how much pain he’s in.”

And Jongin storms out of the room with no plan but full of intent.

 

-----

 

He’s come to expect nothing.

He doesn’t even hope now because the monster has his bones clean of whatever feelings were left in the midst of this never-ending pit of hellfire and scorn.

Kyungsoo finally manages to drag himself into the bathroom to wash up and he realizes that it’s been a week since he’d last seen his husband. He’s been staying at his parents’ house since the hospital discharged him and there’s been no sign of contact from Jongin; no phone calls, no visits, nothing.

He must have abandoned him. That’s the only plausible explanation for his avoidance these days. And he has every right to because all Kyungsoo does is let him down. What a sad excuse for a spouse he is. He can’t even make Jongin happy.

There’s a thick splattering of fog on the bathroom mirror and, as he’s wiping it away, moisture clinging to his skin, he catches sight of his pathetic reflection. A mocking smile and a short laugh characterize his reaction.

You’re so stupid. You’re so blind. You’re so ugly. Nobody wants you. You deserve to die.

There’s a hurt frown that mars the imperfect reflection, tears threatening to spill again from the shell of a crushed man.

You’ve been abandoned.

Kyungsoo lets out a choked sob at the wretched thought, saddened by the terror that keeps coming to shove him down. It’s horrible. Absolutely horrible. He splashes cold water on his face in an attempt to rinse the emotions away and his fingertips always come back to nudge at his puffy and aching eyelids.

His mother’s voice seeps in through the bathroom door and in between the steam that has billowed into the room. “Honey, you have a guest downstairs.”

There’s something that sounds like dread with a thread of eagerness distorting his thoughts and he changes into suitable clothes, looking at himself one last time in his full-sized bedroom mirror.

Is it Jongin? Is he angry? Is he sad? Maybe he doesn’t feel anything?  

His bottom lip gets stuck in between his teeth now as the cogs in his brain are twisting and turning. What is he supposed to say to him? Should he apologize? Should he pretend that everything’s okay when it definitely isn’t? What is there to talk about?

He must be here to officially break things off.

After all, why live with someone who does nothing but disappoint you?

Unconsciously, he starts to finger his wedding ring, the silver band the only proof he has that this whole ordeal wasn’t just a dream; that meeting Jongin really did happen and that he’s not living through a nightmare-- but he is. And out of a sudden spurt of impulsive anger at himself, he tries to tear it off of his finger. But it doesn’t move. Of course it doesn’t move. IRIS is smarter than that.

So he sighs and stumbles down the stairs, a strange mess of dilemma starting to build with every step he takes. He doesn’t want to see him. No, he does. He doesn’t want to hear his voice-- Maybe he does...

Because it’s been days since he’s last touched anyone, missing the contact of skin against skin-- even skin against clothes-- anything really. It’s a desperate kind of instinctual desire; a need to feel the physical comfort and security from another person, someone warm with promises of a happy future. And even if they’re all lies, he wants it. He wants to hear those empty assurances that everything will be okay; that time will still go on; that someone still wants him.

Even if Jongin doesn’t.

The person downstairs isn’t Jongin. It’s Suho.

There’s a drastic change in the weight of his heart as it suddenly droops and wilts, causing a shipwreck inside of his stomach and an embarrassed tumor to grow within him. His fingers automatically come up to try to hide his eyelids, the signs of depression slashing through his ceramic mask of perfection and happiness.

“H-hi,” he mumbles, glancing downwards as if believing that if he doesn’t see Suho then Suho won’t be able to see him either.

“Hi, it’s been a while. Could we talk for a bit?” Suho asks, shifting from foot to foot uncomfortably. “Since it’s a nice day, maybe outside?”

Kyungsoo nods, turning to wave a bit at his parents who are watching from nearby before pulling on his shoes. Stepping outside into the sunlight is very different from sitting inside with the sun coming in. It’s bright on his sensitive eyes and reminds him of a certain person's chilly kisses that are like standing underneath shady trees on humid days--

Stop it.

Just. Stop it, Kyungsoo.

Suho smiles reassuringly at him as they’re standing on the sidewalk in front of the pale yellow house, a color that Kyungsoo’s father had convinced his mother gleamed with optimism and hope.

How ironic.

“I wanted to see how you’re doing so I kind of illegally looked into your patient record and found your address. I’m very sorry for invading your privacy and if you’re uncomfortable then I can leave,” Suho states sheepishly, looking at the other man through his lashes.  

“Oh...” Kyungsoo replies lamely, unsure of how he should react around people now, much less Suho. His gaze settles on the watch surrounding the doctor’s wrist, a possession that seems overly extravagant for a man as simple as Suho. It’s as if he’s unable to focus on anything right now, his attention-span reduced from his lack of sleep and the mental exhaustion that’s heavy like a poison through his veins.

Suho’s face softens as he rakes over Kyungsoo’s form, particularly saddened by his ashen and haggard facial features, the ones that used to be so vibrant and lovely. “Has he come to visit you?”

Kyungsoo stiffens. Suho knows.

“So, he hasn’t.”

The statement triggers something momentous inside of Kyungsoo, something real and fragile. And in that moment he decides that this shadow called love has dimmed his world for long enough, teasing him by poking holes through the dark clouds and letting glitters of sunlight in just to cause a storm of rain to hunt him down and dampen his happiness. So he tries to toss it away, the liquid sadness running from his eyes and chasing the remnants into the ground.

Suho hates seeing him like this, so broken and tormented when he deserves so much more. Out of everyone, Kyungsoo is definitely someone who must be loved. So he wraps his arms around Kyungsoo’s trembling shoulders and embraces him tightly against his chest in an attempt to project all of the love that he has for him contained in his heart and spewing from his soul. In his loneliness, Kyungsoo melts into the soft touch; relishes in the relief that courses through his muscles from the human contact and the temporary medicine it provides his heart with a content sigh.

Suho thinks that it’s perfect with Kyungsoo in his arms, accepting him so willingly. He pulls back the slightest bit to shift their faces closer and he can feel Kyungsoo’s hot breath on his nose. “Can I kiss you?” he asks hesitantly, expectations rising but also feeling a bit regretful from having forced himself on him last time.

Everything’s thrown away in that instant where the world is numb and Kyungsoo stops caring about anything except for his throbbing heart. And he closes their distance, pressing their lips together and enjoying the sensation of moist lips against his, finding shelter in Suho’s arms.

It always seems like Jongin has the worst timing because he arrives in time to see Suho and Kyungsoo come out of the house, exchange a few words to each other before everything escalates too quickly. He’s here watching as the love of his life is kissing someone else willingly for the world to see. He’s here watching as his close friend of many years is kissing someone who belongs to him.

Or at least, used to.

His heart shatters into fragments on the street that day as a hand comes to over his mouth and the tears roll slowly down his cheeks, shockwaves of pain striking his chest over and over again.

The scene keeps replaying itself like a broken movie inside of his vision, torturing him every moment of every day since then.

 

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