— chapter one —
♢ DEW ♢
8AM, rain falls in a light drizzle over the green and white of Jongin's front yard. The air is cold on his skin, fresh in his lungs as it brushes in tiptoes over his eyes. The white sheets tangled between his legs feel feathery, and they're cold, warm, cold.
Small taps on the roof of his bleach-white two-story house sound of muted pitter-patters. A bicycle bell chimes outside, rings softly in his ears. Jongin takes a deep breath and lets the smell of the wet earth rush into his soul. It fills him replete, and he shudders as his eyes suddenly flutter open.
Kyungsoo always comes with rain.
Legs tripping over a bundled comforter, Jongin climbs out of bed. Although he knows there is no one in the house with him, he can smell the faint, trailing scent of morning coffee wafting into the master bedroom. His eyes are still heavy and lidded with sleep when he walks out of the door in a messy jumble of limbs. The kitchen greets him with the strong aroma he's smelled only faintly before and something – no – someone else greets him with it.
"Good morning," he says. He smiles in a way that reminds Jongin of morning toast - warm and welcoming; lips curling in a cascade of fresh lemons and sweet honey. It wakes him up, slivers of light hatching through opened eyes. A noticeable thumping starts somewhere in his left chest.
"Why are you standing? Come and sit,” says Kyungsoo, beckoning from the countertop he's leaning on. "I made some coffee for us."
Jongin stares for a while longer before the shorter turns around to pour him a cup of liquid caffeine. His back is the same way he remembers it – small yet sturdy. Taking a few steps closer, he wraps his arms around the small frame and closes his eyes. Kyungsoo's back against his chest feels the same way he remembers it, too. It's warm.
"Jongin, what are you doing?" Kyungsoo asks, head turning to glance at the younger. But like the paintings he loves to study, he gives no verbal response, just snuggles deeper. "Shouldn't you be getting ready for work?"
He continues to pour coffee, then slides the mug to the side and brings out another. The smell of his rich cologne, Jongin's own scent that has rubbed off on him over the years, soothes the tensed muscles in his body. It forms a lump in his throat.
"Do you still do half and half?" Jongin asks instead of answering the question, breathing into Kyungsoo's nape. The older laughs at the light feather tickles.
"What do you mean, 'still'? I'm always doing half and half."
Jongin just holds on tighter and doesn't let go.
Humming, the petite art teacher fills his mug halfway with the dark liquid. With another hand, he gets himself a second cup and pours in plain hot water. Three cups for two people; they're conventional like that.
"Let go for a second, Jongin. I have to get the herbs," he says, tilting his head again to look at the messy tuft of black hair faded brown. A quiet whine answers him, a tone more accustomed to a puppy than to a grown man, and Kyungsoo leans back.
"Just move me with you. Three steps to the left, right?" Jongin coaxes.
Kyungsoo shakes his head at the childishness, but holds Jongin's arms as they teeter over to the cabinet together then back again. "You're impossible," he says, dropping the bag of tea leaves into his cup of water. He watches as the yellow-orange bleeds through thin paper to paint in swiveling ink. "You should really get ready for work, though."
He leans his head against Jongin's, and the younger breathes into his neck in flitting tickles.
"I'd rather be with you, though," is the stubborn reply with eyes closed, breath moderated. Kyungsoo’s calm aura has always had a relaxing effect on him, and Jongin sinks into the familiar comfort every time.
"Students are waiting for you, Mr. Kim," the older reasons, a thumb rubbing at the hand wrapped around his waist. Jongin frowns for a second because it's been a while since he's been called Mr. Kim and not Professor Kim, but he concludes that it doesn't matter if the moment he is in now is from a long time ago. He’s been warped back further before; this is no big deal.
"I can call and say I'm sick," he mutters, lips ghosting over Kyungsoo's smooth neck.
As usual, Kyungsoo chastises him. "No, Jongin."
"Why?" Jongin asks, pressing a soft, fleeting kiss to the mole on Kyunsoo's neck. The older stiffens for a second in fluttering warmth. "Please?"
"Jongin, no. You have to go to work." Kyungsoo pulls away, but the younger has a tight hold on him.
"Kyungsoo," Jongin almost whines.
His eyes widen when his body is swiveled around, waist secured by Jongin's strong hands as his own come to rest on the younger's flushed chest.
"Please?" Jongin whispers, forehead slanting to meet Kyungsoo's. The older bashfully gazes down, and a light shade of pink tints his cheeks. Built arms pull him closer, warmth trapped between their chests. Attempting to break away, Kyungsoo protests with an inaudible tangle of words, but when he feels those lips brushing over his own, he can only clench the fabric tighter under his hands. A tender "Don't leave me" dances over his lips and engulfs him, helplessness enshrouding them in a hovering cloud. Jongin loses track of time as the coffee on the counter slowly fades cold, but Kyungsoo is still warm in his two arms and that's all the warmth he ever needs.
Ten o' clock that night, Jongin lies in his bed with Kyungsoo nuzzled in his embrace. The older is fast asleep, eyelashes shadowing blemishes and scars from forgotten youth, but Jongin can't join him, doesn't know if he should. If he falls asleep tonight, Kyungsoo might be gone with the coming morning. It’s a risk that keeps him running hand in hand with insomnia.
As if to taunt him, the rain outside falls like it wants to tumble instead, both whispering and thundering down the sidewalks and hammering into his roof. Hello, hello, it says, sweeping down the city and covering it half a centimeter deep with its name. Jongin looks at the calendar by the wall and reads the date after the most recent X to indicate the days that have passed. Today is January 25, 2018. Yesterday was October 11, 2026.
Life goes on, but Jongin is stuck while Kyungsoo is lagged behind: dragging, dragging, dragging. He closes his eyes and feels the anchor hold onto him, too – he's always been bound to Kyungsoo, fate or otherwise. They are chained together, never too far apart.
But when it rains, the anchor likes to remind him more forcefully that it is there. It's always there, of course, but water makes everything else heavy and anchors need water to make something sink. So when the rain comes, the anchor screams in his face and Jongin sinks little by little, infinitesimally small pulls at a time. It says we’re back, we’re back. How have you been? to make him curl into himself and shut out the sounds that nonetheless leak through. It doesn’t wash off even when he’s taken uncountable showers and when he’s tried picking at opaque surface. Minuscule flakes of skin litter his bedroom floor, but when Jongin looks at his exposed flesh, he finds that the poison has seeped in a layer deeper.
Pitter-pat, pitter-pat, the droplets titter in harmony, a thousand different keys playing at once. Pitter-pat, pitter, pat. It's almost like a curse.
When he awakes the next morning, the blanket balled at the foot of his bed is gray and the windowsill is coated with dust. He sits up, lets the tears welled in the corners of his eyes slip down to stain his white shirt in splatters, dancing as if they are raindrops. Missing someone who has gone away is an understandable pain, a universal heartbreak. But Jongin doesn't just remember the past. He ing lives it.
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