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. 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.
--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---
It’s three days after Jongin endured two hours of having to listen to a moody and emotional Luhan scold him for being such a complete that he gets the phone call that really has him pulling out his hair in frustration.
“He’s moving in with me?” Jongin exclaims into the phone, thinking that things just keep getting worse and worse.
“Isn’t it a given since you two will be officially married soon? His parents said that he doesn’t have very many belongings so they’re coming next week to help him settle in,” his mother informs him.
Jongin clamps a hand onto his tired eyes in an effort to calm his emotions. He leans back on the plush leather chair in his office at the hospital and sighs through his nose. He can hear his mother sighing lightly on the other end of the phone too. Before hanging up, she adds, “Don’t mess this up, Jongin. You’ll only be allowed to inherit the hospital if you manage to keep Kyungsoo happy.”
After they hang up, Jongin drops his phone into his coat pocket gingerly and stares at the looming stack of manila files on his desk. Thankfully it’s a busy day at the hospital with a full roster of patients. So Jongin quickly gets to work and is glad that he’ll at least be too mentally occupied with other things to be thinking about this predicament.
As he’s striding down the clean hallways, he notices a same- couple with one person pushing the other along in a wheelchair. The person in the wheelchair is pale with bags under his eyes and Jongin doesn’t doubt it for a second that that person just went through a round of cell reconfiguration for their reproductive implant surgery.
Soon he will also have to go through that…
And Jongin’s not sure how to feel because the idea of marriage is so foreign to him, like stepping into an unknown world blindfolded with his limbs bound. He feels like it’s something to be feared, not desired. He had known that his match had been decided for him when he was five years old but he hoped that by going to medical school his parents would delay the marriage for as long as possible. Now he’s getting married soon to someone he met only a few days ago and the thought causes his stomach to jumble with yarn and strings as a frown creases his features.
This isn’t what he wanted at all.
Dust particles and wisps of fingerprints on well-loved belongings flutter through Kyungsoo’s bedroom along with the melodies of a joyful tune. Kyungsoo’s in a noticeably better mood today than he was a couple days ago after having slept away the tears and insecurities, opting to listen to Chanyeol’s surprisingly good advice. His happy humming makes his parents smile as they watch him packing up his clothes from his bedroom doorway.
“Are you sure you don’t need help, dear?” Kyungsoo’s mother asks, eyeing the clothes and trinkets scattered across his usually uncluttered floor.
“I only have a few more things to pack and I’ll be done,” he responds cheerfully, flashing a grin. But she comes into the room anyway, finding a place to sit on the floor next to her son as he folds his clothes and arranges them neatly inside of a suitcase.
She stares at her son tenderly; the product of her successful marriage with a man she never thought that she’d be able to love but now cannot bear to live without. “You know, your father and I were worried about how you’d get along with Jongin.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean... when IRIS called and said that your match had been determined, we were worried about your happiness and your future with a same- partner. But when your father met with Jongin’s parents, they readily offered to pay for the reproductive implant surgery as long as you had the genetics for it. You probably don’t remember but we were so happy that day when your father picked up the results of the tests from the hospital and we found out that your genetics are compatible.”
Tears start brimming in her eyes at the memories and Kyungsoo stops folding for a moment to embrace her. “Thank you for always worrying about me, mom. I’ll work hard at being a good spouse so that you don’t have to worry as much anymore.”
There’s shuffling and fumbling with drawers and closet doors, rolling in and out of their holders as Jongin sweeps across the spare room quickly. “This is going to be your room. You can put your stuff into these two drawers and in the walk-in closet. There’s a bathroom through that door over there.”
Jongin whips his head around to stare down at the older man. “What is it?”
“Shouldn’t we… um… it’s a bit bold of me but… sleep together?” Kyungsoo looks up at him with a sweet and somewhat shy expression on his face, hoping that he’ll say yes but all the while embarrassed at the proposal.
Jongin brushes it off as he turns away from the puppy eyes that almost lulled him into yielding to the request, his mind racing to think of some type of excuse to dodge this situation. “I come home late from the hospital so we shouldn’t.”
Kyungsoo feels his heart sinking but he tries to look on the positive side of things and thinks that Jongin’s very considerate to be worried about waking him up in the middle of the night when he ends his shift at work. He kind of wishes to be woken up though. He wants to be able to sleep together like a real couple but he nudges that desire to the back of his mind for now. He believes that maybe one day they’ll be able to take that step but it doesn’t look like Jongin is ready yet so he relents. “Okay.”
Jongin lets out a mental sigh of relief and checks his watch. “I have to get back to work now.”
“I don’t want to keep you from your work,” Kyungsoo responds softly.
So Jongin leaves Kyungsoo here in his new room and Kyungsoo looks around the room in a sad manner, his eyebrows knit into distress from being unable to get closer to Jongin. He starts unpacking his boxes while his mind keeps replaying the desire for his spouse to have stayed longer.
After a few minutes of agonizingly slow progress, he extracts his wallet from his back pocket and removes the photo that is encased in a plastic trading card holder inside. His face breaks out into a grin as his eyes scan the familiar photo and he brings it to his heart lovingly, pressing it against the fabric of his chest.
“...you’ll be able to marry this person one day.”
It’s almost three in the morning when Jongin finally returns home from work, taking on an extra few hours to make up for the time he missed while overlooking Kyungsoo’s move-in and to avoid him as much as possible. As he’s taking his shoes off in the entryway, he hears some light footsteps coming towards him and he looks up with surprise painted on his features.
“Welcome home,” Kyungsoo greets, smiling. Jongin frowns.
“Why are you up so late?”
“Oh,” a faint blush peeks through the older man’s skin at the question. “I was… waiting for you.”
With that one line, there’s a trigger that gets pulled within Jongin somewhere and there’s a faint whisper of something unfamiliar to him inside of his heart. He brushes it off though, remembering that they’re not in love. But Jongin still feels the emotion dissolving throughout his entire body, making his body temperature rise and his blood shake with excitement. So he reaches into his pocket and fingers the small velvet box that he obtained today, debating with himself about whether or not he’ll give it to his spouse now or wait until next week when they officially register their marriage.
Seeing Kyungsoo’s mildly bloodshot eyes deters him from presenting it to him now and he opts for grabbing the older man by the wrist instead, pulling him up the stairs gently. He’s in somewhat of a good mood now so his voice is delicate as he reprimands him lightly, “Thanks for waiting for me but you need to remember to sleep, okay?”
Kyungsoo’s cheeks are flushed a deep crimson and he’s glad that Jongin’s unable to see his face right now as his mind focuses itself on the warm hand wrapped around his wrist. He memorizes the sensation because it’s the first time his beloved has ever touched him willingly and he nods. “You don’t need to worry about me because I want to do this for you.”
Jongin comes to an abrupt stop in the hallway in front of Kyungsoo’s bedroom door and the atmosphere is electrified with something dangerous and scary to him as he listens to the pounding of his heart in his eardrums from the comment. Years of being subject to only depending on himself and learning to trust no one has made him cold and insecure so he releases Kyungsoo’s wrist and still has his back facing him as he mumbles a ‘goodnight’ before walking away.
Kyungsoo merely stares after him, biting his bottom lip to try to enclose the tingling of his heated skin within himself. Even though Jongin doesn’t hear it, he still whispers, “Goodnight.”
And Kyungsoo doesn’t know it yet but their relationship will be characterized by sleepless nights.