006

Iris

 

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 but the earth is trembling too much for him to move.

 

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Manila-folders piled up in heaps and papers scattered along his polished wood desk with writing utensils scattered in a blizzard around the surface with glowing sunshine spilling in through the looming windows. Jongin sways back and forth in his leather swivel chair, clamping and unclamping his legs, the painful swell of something dreadful brewing. Frenzies of illnesses and creaky joints in the hospital that once replenished his energy and constant fretting over his newlywed spouse has the stress sticking him in the spine like needles, causing internal hemorrhaging.

 

But what’s more frustrating is his body’s reaction to the stress and it’s causing him to lose touch of his rationality, summoning unwanted fantasies and overly-vivid images of obscene things that he’d rather lock up in a steel cage but he’s lost the key. His eight-hour shift finally ends and instead of picking up an extra one, he opts to return home, hoping to find some relief there.

 

As he’s prying off his shoes in the entryway, the familiar padding of socks on hardwood floors has a flood of startling images of skin, legs, and more naughty things sprinting and spiraling through his mind and onto his eyeballs.

 

“Welcome home, Jongin! You’re back early today,” Kyungsoo greets with a warm smile as he takes the lunch box from his spouse. Their fingers brush against each other for only a heart-splitting second but Jongin feels it scorching him and making his blood boil. Just as he’s about to escape, Kyungsoo clutches at the hem of his suit jacket hesitantly.

 

“Um, my cell reconfiguration appointment is on Thursday and they said that I can’t take the train back home so... c-could you possibly drive me back...” Kyungsoo mumbles, hoping Jongin heard him despite his wispy voice.

 

But Jongin’s brain is clogged by the delectable sight of Kyungsoo’s plush lips and the pulsating in his pants is aching with need and desire from envisioning those lips around his--

 

“Jongin?” Kyungsoo calls out, tilting his head slightly due to his husband’s lack of a response to his request.

 

“Huh? Oh, sure,” Jongin answers impulsively, listening to Kyungsoo’s inquiry with deaf ears and a muted mind. Kyungsoo’s innocent face is frozen with shock for a split-second before it morphs into a glittering grin with his eyes twinkling with stars and the universe.

 

“Really? Thank you!” And he bounces away with a soft hum in his throat while Jongin takes three stairs at a time to placate the heat in his pants.  

 

 

-----

 

Kyungsoo’s rocking back and forth on the balls of his chilled bare feet to still his tingling nerves, having been told to remove his clothes for the procedure. It always seems like he’s doing tests in the hospital in his boxers with the clean tiled floor greeting his soles. The cold air is coming to kiss his heated skin delicately even here in the enclosed white room with no windows. Out of curiosity and a hint of boredom, he runs his anxious eyes over the large circular machine with an automatic table and numerous cords running in and out of it.

 

He’ll be under that machine soon and the thought makes his heart palpitate with a sting of apprehension caught in the chambers. Baekhyun said that it doesn’t hurt right away... but it hurts later, he remembers, gulping down the lump that had grown in his dry throat. He clasps his clammy fingers together and continues to rock back and forth, the motion somewhat soothing when coupled with the thought that Jongin is just upstairs and will be driving him home after this.

 

A lovely smile flutters onto his cheeks at the thought. He had thought that he was being too greedy by asking Jongin to take time out of his busy schedule to accommodate him but he was glad that he seemed to accept so easily. He swiftly wipes his face clean of the precious smile that was once there though, reprimanding himself lightly in an attempt to prevent himself from becoming spoiled. Things are fine the way they are. Jongin shows him kindness from time to time and that’s all he needs to be happy. Any more and he’ll be spoiled to the point of a hopeless love, being captured in a chasm where every moment together with Jongin will only cause him pain.

 

The automatic glass door finally slides open with a woosh of air and Kyungsoo stops rocking on his toes to greet the doctor who will be attending to his cell reconfiguration procedures for the next couple of weeks. His wide eyes light up in a glow when he recognizes the doctor entering the well-lit room and the doctor smiles a sweet smile as he recognizes him too.

 

“Aren’t you Jongin’s spouse?” Suho greets cheerfully, his eyes twinkling like crescent moons.

 

“Yes! Um, I apologize. I remember your face from Jongin’s birthday party but I forgot your name,” Kyungsoo responds sheepishly, rubbing the hair follicles on the nape of his neck with a faint blush.

 

“That’s okay. I’m Suho. I’m one of the doctors in charge of cell reconfiguration here. Speaking of which, why isn’t he here with you? I can’t put you under the machine until I confirm that you have a safe method of transportation back to your house,” Suho informs him as he pages through Kyungsoo’s papers on his clipboard.

 

“He’s working right now but he said that he’ll take me home when I’m done,” Kyungsoo answers with a bounce, excited because he rarely gets the opportunity to spend time with his husband during the daytime-- or at all, really.

 

Suho’s instincts are twittering with something odd and he gives his patient a concerned look before going to wash his hands in the sink in the corner and pulling on some latex gloves. Still mulling over the situation, he motions for Kyungsoo to lay down on the cushioned table and ghosts his fingers over the exposed abdomen, pressing down on the skin gently. Finally, Suho chooses to investigate the strange circumstances a bit further.

 

“Isn’t it difficult being matched with him?” Suho asks softly, just above a whisper.

 

A stain of surprise discharges itself onto Kyungsoo’s skin and he’s scared of anyone finding out about his less than perfect marriage so he feigns ignorance. “No, why?”

 

“I apologize if I’m overstepping my boundaries. I’m not saying that Jongin is a bad guy or anything but he... he typically works in two eight-hour shifts so he really only goes home to sleep. He’s also a bit standoffish and cold, even to his friends. Isn’t that hard on you?”

 

Kyungsoo takes this in for a moment, shivering slightly from the light nudges on his abdomen and something much scarier that’s threatening to unlock itself from the gorge that he tossed it into. He rolls over onto his stomach when Suho motions for him to and his gaze is a bit distant before he closes his eyes. “Jongin worked very hard to get to where he is now. He does overtime not because he has to but because he likes what he does. Isn’t it wrong of me to ask him to come home early to see me when he loves being here so much? I think that it’s too selfish of me. Since Jongin is doing his best, I should too.”

 

And this comment makes Suho’s heart stutter for a moment. His trained fingertips stop pressing into the smooth skin while he stares with shocked eyes at Kyungsoo’s exposed back and thinks that he’s truly amazing. But Kyungsoo’s a mental shipwreck right now on the table, as much trying to convince Suho as he is trying to convince himself. “Alright then,” Suho relents. “I still need to call him down here because of protocol though.”

 

Kyungsoo just nods as Suho steps into the hallway, whipping out his mobile phone. He’s staring at Kyungsoo’s still body through the glass window into the room as he listens to the dial tone, waiting for Jongin to pick up. And he thinks that Jongin’s lucky to be matched with a person who is so willing to sacrifice everything for him despite getting nothing in return.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Jongin, it’s me.”

 

“You don’t usually call like this. Is the cell reconfiguration machine broken?”

 

“No, that’s not it at all. Do you know who is down here with me right now?” Suho asks, annoyance starting to creep into his usually calm and composed voice.

 

“Who?”

 

There’s an audible sigh through the receiver as Suho closes his eyes in frustration and leans against the wall in an effort to still his rushing emotions. How unlucky Kyungsoo is, he thinks bitterly. “It’s your spouse. I’m sure you know the protocol for cell reconfiguration. He says that you’re supposed to be driving him home after this. Did you forget?”

 

And a pregnant pause fills the space between them. “...Look, I’m about to go into a meeting with the heads of each department. Is it possible to find someone else?”

 

“Jongin. This is your husband. Are you really going to do this to him? I’m telling you this now because I don’t want you to regret it in the future. Cell reconfiguration procedures are very important to your relationship. Do you know how lucky you are to be matched with someone who has the correct genetics for the implant and the willingness to undergo painful procedures and surgery for you?” Suho’s voice is cracking a bit from the anger sprinting through it and he almost hisses at Jongin through clenched teeth.

 

But all Jongin can answer with is, “What do you expect me to do when I have an important meeting to go to?”

 

Suho takes a second to make a motion with his arm as if he’s going to smash the phone onto the floor but he decides against it, being the rational person he typically is. “Send someone else? Jeez, just-- whatever, Jongin. I’ll tell him that you can’t make it so he has to call someone else here. Bye.” And he hangs up the phone before receiving a response.

 

He looks back in through the glass window at Kyungsoo and pockets the phone. He speedily thinks over his schedule for today and calculates the approximate time it’ll take for the procedure and to take Kyungsoo home. He strides into the room and tries to summon his happiest voice despite the antagonism brewing and simmering underneath the surface. “Kyungsoo?”

 

Kyungsoo looks up from his spot on the table at him with distress touching his features. “Is something wrong?”

 

“There’s no need to worry but Jongin suddenly has a very important meeting to attend to so he asked me to take you home instead. He said that he’s extremely sorry and that he’ll make it up to you, okay?”

 

Something inside of Kyungsoo crashes and spills over and the liquid sadness is seeping out into his pores before he knows it. And deep inside he knows that Jongin isn’t the type who would say such a thing. Even though he knows that Suho’s covering up for Jongin, he accepts it all anyway even with the shards of hurt and betrayal rupturing his insides.

 

“Really? It can’t be helped then. Thanks so much, Suho,” he manages with a quivering smile.

 

Suho notices the minute twitches in Kyungsoo’s expression and knows that he probably saw through his white lie but it’s better this way than knowing the full truth. “I’m going to start the machine now. It won’t hurt at all but try not to move.”

 

The large white machine makes a soft whirring sound as the circular tube engulfs Kyungsoo’s body and starts rotating slowly with pastel blues and pinks being emitted from its smooth innards. After the procedure, he gets dressed in a daze and he knows that he has to get over this but for some reason it’s so incredibly painful and tortuous. With every breath, he keeps lodging more of the broken fragments into his organs and rotting his skin.

 

They’ve arrived at the house now and they’re walking down the extravagant hallway when Suho tweaks an eyebrow at him. “Kyungsoo? Where are you going? Isn’t this your room?” Suho asks, his voice discolored with worry as he’s stopped in front of Jongin’s bedroom door.

 

It takes infinity for Kyungsoo to finally gather his thoughts and courage enough to admit to Suho something he hasn’t told anyone else, not even Baekhyun, Chanyeol, or his parents. “...We don’t sleep together.”

 

And Kyungsoo’s not ashamed of his marriage with Jongin but at himself for being so incompetent as a proper spouse, being unable to gain Jongin’s good favor. It’s breaking his heart slowly, the cracks apparent through his shaking fingertips. He lets out a hot breath and enters his bedroom, unwilling to see the absolutely shocked expression on Suho’s face before he enters the room after him.

 

“What? Aren’t you two married now? What’s going on?” Suho demands, his voice firm as he grabs Kyungsoo by the forearm.

 

“I’m feeling kind of tired so I want to rest. You can go back to the hospital. Thank you for your care, Suho,” Kyungsoo mutters, still avoiding eye contact for fear of letting his unshed tears spill from the cavern in which he’s buried them in.

 

Suho knows what this type of response means without having to ask and it only succeeds in making him even more uncomfortable about their marriage-- if it can even be called that. Despite the ugly and grotesque feeling that is growing and sprouting within him, he knows that he has to respect Kyungsoo’s decision to live his life this way. “Alright, but you should at least call a friend over. The effects are very painful. You may experience nausea, weakness, extreme abdominal pain, and loss of appetite among other things. Massages around your spine and drinking lots of liquids will help the process. If you experience bleeding then quickly come back to the hospital. I’ll see you next week for the next dose then.”

 

“...Thank you, Suho.”


The entire way back to the hospital, Suho thinks about how miserable Kyungsoo’s life is.

 

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