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Title: White Hole Syndrome
Genre: Romance, Fluff, Fantasy, Slight Angst
Word count: ~8,000 words
Warning: character death, some possibly sensitive themes (oops)
Summary: Jongin has a weak heart and Kyungsoo claims to have come from outer space. Whether or not Kyungsoo was telling the truth about his origins, Jongin had no doubt that he was indeed out of this world.
A/N: Okay, first things first: a huge THANK YOU goes to the admins of KFR for planning this wonderful event (and for taking me into consideration to participate in it) and for making such an amazing job bringing us KaiSoo goodness to feast on and quench our thirst with. You’re all lovely and precious, okay? I got really invested in this particular fic and it will forever hold a very special place in my heart, so hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. (And please give it a chance despite the warnings). If you’d like some music to listen to while reading, I’d highly recommend checking out Taeyeon (ft. Dean)-Starlight, Marina and the Diamonds-Buy the stars and Frank Sinatra-Fly me to the moon. Thank you and happy reading!
“What do you think the stars would taste like?”
Jongin turned to face Kyungsoo, raising an eyebrow questioningly as the latter gazed up at the starry sky with bright eyes filled with curiosity and something akin to innocence. The breeze ruffled his hair, streaks of baby blue (courtesy of the hair chalk he bought the other day at the dollar store) mingling with the ashy blonde locks he’d been sporting for the past couple months.
“I said,” mused Kyungsoo with a slight roll of his eyes, “what do you think the stars would taste like?”
“You can’t taste the stars but if you could, they’d probably taste like metal and dust and other toxic substances that would kill you before you could even say ‘oops’.” Kyungsoo snorted and nudged Jongin’s side, reaching into his bag of chips and stealing one for himself. Sour cream and onion was Jongin’s favourite flavour.
“You’re no fun.”
“Alright, Ptolomy. What do you think the stars would taste like, then?” Kyungsoo hummed in thought and leaned back as he chewed the chip he’d stolen from Jongin, who entertained himself by trying to guess what his answer would be.
“I think they’d taste like vanilla bean or blueberry. Maybe even cotton candy.”
“That’s impossible.” However, Kyungsoo’s answer had been easy to predict for Jongin. He had a sweet tooth and Jongin often wondered if that was the reason behind the sweetness his words usually carried. “Because I’m almost sure they’d taste like bubble gum.”
Kyungsoo’s shoulders shook as he laughed quietly at Jongin’s comment, stretching out his legs and heaving out a sigh once he was done. Whenever Kyungsoo laughed Jongin would quietly watch and listen to the joyous sound, taking note of the way his usually wide eyes turned into crescents and holding back from poking at the dimples that appeared on his upper cheeks.
That’s how things worked between them: Kyungsoo provided the laughs and pondered over the universe and life and Jongin listened, finding joy and relief in watching him be so carefree and lively.
“How’s your heart?” Kyungsoo asked after a minute of silence, reaching into the bag of the chips again and making a face when he found all its contents were gone. Jongin allowed himself to smile.
“It’s good. You’re worrying over nothing, really.”
“Have you been taking your meds?”
Kyungsoo shot a glare at Jongin and shook his head afterwards, making his hair bounce a few times before falling across his forehead. Jongin sighed and crumpled the empty bag in his hands, stuffing it into the right pocket of his jacket in the meantime so he could throw it away later.
Night had fallen already and going back home would be the wisest thing Jongin could do, but he refused to leave Kyungsoo’s side just yet. Being with Kyungsoo was like diving in a pool in a hot summer day, and also like taking a mouthful of air after being underwater for too long.
“You know,” Kyungsoo started, “if your heart ever fails you can have half of mine.”
“I beg your pardon?”
Maybe it was Jongin’s imagination, or perhaps it was an illusion caused by the lights and shadows casted on Kyungsoo’s face by the streetlamp, but Jongin thought he could see a faint blush on his cheeks and stars twinkling in his eyes. He kind of wanted to take a dive in them.
“I said you can have half of my heart if yours fails.”
“No one can live with only half a heart, idiot.”
Kyungsoo seemed to ponder over this for a brief moment, adjusting his blue jacket around his torso to shield it from the cold. A smile crept up to his lips as he stood up from the bench, peering at Jongin over his shoulder. “Maybe you could give me half of yours in return, then.”
Jongin’s heart wasn’t good.
It had taken him a few years to acknowledge he had a disease, and another couple to understand his limitations and accept he wouldn’t be able to do as many things as other kids his age did. Most games that included running were strictly forbidden, and Jongin had to spend a good part of his childhood feeling like an outsider instead of joining other kids in their endeavours and coming home with scraped knees and dirty clothes.
His body yearned for movement and his soul screamed for freedom, but he was prisoner of a weak heart that was unable to properly to pump blood through Jongin’s body, rendering him unable to perform any physical activity that might jeopardize his health. Walking and mild physical activity were encouraged, but running and dancing were absolutely out of the question for Jongin.
The doctors said it was called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy but Jongin preferred referring to it as a curse instead of a disease, for it had no cure and if he wasn’t careful enough he might bring his death upon himself. Learning that he’d inherited the genes that caused his disease had only resulted in Jongin holding a two years long grudge against his parents that he gave up for good on his senior year of high school because, ironically, it wore him out.
When he graduated he decided to stop pursuing an unattainable dream, finally giving up on waiting for a miracle that would never happen. His heart might be weak but his brain was fully functional and he planned to use it well and stuff it with knowledge just to prove he was just as worthy and capable as everybody else – but then he met Kyungsoo.
It was a warm summer day and Jongin was finally heading back home after his shift at the book store near the subway station, his lips pursed into a tight line and gaze cast down. Life wasn’t fair and his boss wasn’t exactly the sweetest lady in town, and to top it all off he was running out of meds and needed to get a refill soon. If only he could trade his heart for a functional one, he’d do it in a whim.
Jongin was already a bit out of breath from walking and getting worked up over his physical limitations, and decided to make a quick stop at a nearby park to collect his thoughts and give his body and mind a break. Though that was hard to achieve when he was surrounded by people enjoying the freedom he’d always been deprived of due to the constant fear of his heart giving up poking at his thoughts.
One of the joggers caught his eye then and Jongin found himself unable to tear his gaze away from him and how strong and healthy he looked. Admiration morphed into jealousy within seconds and Jongin cursed under his breath at the negative emotions brewing inside him, somewhat ashamed of himself for harbouring such feelings towards a complete stranger.
But he envied him. He envied his health and freedom, and he envied the look of happiness on his face.
He wanted what that jogger had, and he wanted it so bad he ended up returning to the park the next day and then a few more times after that, and as the days went by he found his hatred and jealousy vanishing and making room for a set of completely different emotions: admiration and fascination.
The jogger always sported an expression of serenity and joy, even when drenched in sweat, and Jongin basked in it from afar. He drank in the sight of flushed cheeks, veiny arms and toned calves, of slightly tan skin and bouncy dark hair that the jogger often hid under a cap to prevent it from sticking to his forehead and to block the last rays of sunlight.
Jongin drank it all in until watching wasn’t enough anymore to quench his thirst for freedom and movement, though he was at a loss about what could bring him the same joy he saw every day on the young jogger’s face. That’s when Kyungsoo entered his life through a door Jongin had unconsciously opened, slowing down his pace as he neared the bench where Jongin usually sat at and removing his cap to ruffle his hair.
His ashy blonde hair.
“You bleached it.” Jongin wasn’t supposed to say that (or anything at all, for that matter), but it was too late to take back his words now and the jogger was staring at him, visibly confused by his comment although he didn’t look bothered either.
“Your hair, I mean. You bleached it.”
“Oh.” The jogger chuckled and nodded, taking a seat beside Jongin without even demanding any further explanation regarding how he knew what his natural hair looked like. “It’s summer and I wanted something brighter and warmer, you know. Do you think it looks weird?”
Jongin promptly shook his head. “It looks very… summery indeed.”
“Thank you. I like matching my appearance with the seasons.”
“I don’t know about you but black didn’t look much like a spring colour to me.”
The jogger raised an eyebrow and blinked slowly at Jongin, almost as if the latter had suddenly grown a second head, and then chortled. “I think that depends on the way you look at it. I’m Kyungsoo, by the way.”
Four months had passed since that day and Jongin still couldn’t decipher how on earth Kyungsoo saw the world, but he was grateful he was there to see colour where Jongin saw only black and white and nothing else in between.
Jongin’s nose was red from the cold and he was already running out of breath just from walking, but he and Kyungsoo were going to meet up and he had no intention of making the other wait or worse, not showing up at all. Besides, the doctor said after his last check-up that his heart was functioning well enough despite his condition and had even allowed him to start doing some very light jogging, which made Jongin very happy.
And it was with Kyungsoo that he felt healthy and normal, almost as if his disease wasn’t really there, even when his heart did this little funny flip in his chest whenever they were together. It was nothing to be worried about, of course, and it was a sensation Jongin actually enjoyed.
It started as a wave of warmth that spread quickly through Jongin’s chest and didn’t stop until it reached his toes and the tips of his ears, and then morphed into a tingling sensation that somehow made him feel as if his internal organs had been removed and there was nothing but fuzz left in him and sweetness lingering on his tongue.
He often wondered if that’s how Kyungsoo felt when he ran.
Reaching the ramen shop where they usually met at took him at least ten minutes longer than usual due to the bad weather and Jongin having to stop every couple blocks to catch his breath, (he was so out of shape, it was embarrassing) but he eventually got there without any further complications.
“Sorry I’m late.” Jongin apologized as soon as he plopped down on the stool next to Kyungsoo, earning a disapproving look from the latter who promptly began unwrapping his scarf from around his neck. Kyungsoo had changed his hair again, turning his ashy blonde into a silver grey.
“Your nose is cold yet you’re sweating.”
“Sorry for being a gross paradox.”
Kyungsoo raised a brow and exhaled a breath as he fixed Jongin’s clothes for him and combed his fingers through his hair to smooth it down. It was little gestures like these that made Jongin’s insides melt into goo and Kyungsoo probably had no idea of the effect he had on him. “Why can’t we just meet at your place? That way you wouldn’t tire yourself out.”
“I don’t like being home. The atmosphere there is too… gloomy.” Jongin simply said with a shrug, momentarily diverting his attention from Kyungsoo so he could order the usual −ramen with sliced steak, soy marinated soft egg, greens and carrots for Kyungsoo and the one with chicken, cabbage, spring onions and a hard-boiled egg for himself. “My parents were too scared of me suddenly dropping dead they almost never let me go outside and play.”
“Weren’t you scared of dying?” Jongin turned his head to look at Kyungsoo, confused eyes meeting another pair of curious and rounder ones. It wasn’t very common for Kyungsoo to adopt such a serious, almost solemn attitude but Jongin guessed that death wasn’t exactly a cheerful topic for some people.
“I used to be, but not anymore. I mean…” He bit his lower lip and furrowed his eyebrows, a wrinkle forming on his forehead as he tried to put his thoughts and feelings into words Kyungsoo could understand. “I decided I didn’t want to live with the constant fear of my heart stopping keeping me from doing the things I wanted. Sure, there’s things I can’t do but I didn’t want to isolate myself from the world either. That would be no life at all.”
Kyungsoo propped an elbow on the bar countertop and rested his cheek in his palm, his eyes glued on Jongin’s face as he studied it and sought for any traces of fear in his features. “Is your life good now?
Two steamy bowls of ramen were set down in front of them, momentarily interrupting their conversation, and Jongin flashed Kyungsoo a smile as he split apart his chopsticks. “It’s not ideal yet but it’s going pretty well so far, so yeah.”
“What about your heart?”
“My doctor said I’m healthy enough to try some other forms of physical activity.”
“The offer of taking half of my heart is still up, you know. Just throwing that out there.”
Jongin smiled over a mouthful of noodles and chicken, peering over at Kyungsoo who seemed to be very interested in the carrots floating around in the broth. “And I’d have to give you half of mine in return, right?”
Kyungsoo nodded. “Of course. I’ve never heard of anyone living with only half their heart. Though, if you needed it, I could give it all to you.”
“What? Your heart?” Jongin asked with a hint of a small smile on his lips, poking at a piece of chicken with his chopsticks. Kyungsoo remained unfazed, though Jongin could swear his ears looked a bit redder than usual and he was definitely having trouble picking that slice of steak.
“Literally or figuratively?”
“Well…” Kyungsoo ate a carrot, the tip of his tongue darting out to collect remnants of broth from his lips. “I would give you half of my heart literally, but you could figuratively take all of it.”
“While you’re at it, take my whole life too.” Kyungsoo added afterwards just for good measure, eliciting a warm laugh from Jongin who didn’t even bother to be discreet and keep it low as to not disturb other patrons, but no one seemed to be paying attention to them anyway except, perhaps, for the lady behind the counter who continuously shook her head and smiled at their antics.
“I have a confession to make.” Jongin said as they walked down the street, his scarf back to its place around his neck and belly stuffed with a bowl of hearty ramen. It was way past dusk already and snow had begun to fall, a few snowflakes catching into their hair and while others landed on their thick clothes like pixie dust.
Winter had always been the most mysterious season to Jongin, with its somewhat twisted version of beauty that could be easily found in dead flowers and leaves and dull and grey skies. Winter was also the prelude of spring, which brought back to life whatever had been swept away and left forgotten.
Alas, humdrum tended to take over Jongin’s life during this season and it often made him feel suffocated, but that changed when he came to the realisation that the beginning of another season also meant that Kyungsoo would be modifying his appearance in order to blend with the corresponding colour palette – bright clothes and dewy skin for spring, blonde hair and faux freckles for summer and red tracksuits and chalk dust on his fingers for fall.
In winter, when monochromes took over the scenery and cold numbed not only people’s limbs but also their hearts and emotions, Kyungsoo effortlessly stood out with his bright smile and unorthodox philosophy of life. He would still go out for an early run around the park, too, and Jongin had become fond of the semi-permanent flushed state of his cheeks.
Kyungsoo turned around to face him, walking backwards and occasionally glancing over his shoulder to make sure the path was clear and he wouldn’t end up in a trash can or colliding into a lamp post. “Actually, me too. But you go first.”
“I wasn’t completely honest back there. I’m still afraid my heart will stop and I’ll drop dead all of a sudden, you know.” Kyungsoo stopped moving altogether and cocked his head to the side, pursing his lips and narrowing his eyes in a seemingly thoughtful gesture. Silver grey strands of hair fell across his forehead, his thick and dark eyebrows still visible underneath. “I hate that my heart is so weak. I wish I had a strong, healthy one like yours.”
“I told you, you can have my heart if you want it.”
Jongin chose to ignore Kyungsoo’s offer this time, nudging him on the side as he walked past him. Kyungsoo trailed after him and they easily fell into step, occasionally slowing down to gaze into display windows and brush some snowflakes off their faces and hair. “You said you had something to confess too.”
“Oh, right. First you have to promise me not to freak out.”
Jongin raised an eyebrow. “You aren’t helping much by asking that.”
“Hush.” Kyungsoo hopped forward and stood before Jongin, effectively making him halt on his steps and blocking the way, and Jongin felt his heart do that funny flip again. He had no idea of what Kyungsoo would tell him but he hoped it was nothing serious. “Firstly, you can’t tell anyone.”
“It’s not like I have hundreds of friends and acquaintances anyway.”
“Then it shouldn’t be a problem for you to keep my secret safe.” Kyungsoo had a good point there so Jongin didn’t retaliate and remained silent, as if to encourage the other male to keep talking. Kyungsoo seemed to be quite excited so no further coaxing was needed for him to spill the beans. “I’m not human.”
Jongin’s steps came to a halt and his eyes widened upon hearing this unexpected confession, waiting for Kyungsoo to either explain what he meant or admit he was joking. Before either of those things happened, Jongin inevitably snorted.
“I’m serious. I came from outer space.” Kyungsoo insisted, reaching out to give Jongin’s scarf a tug to get him moving again. Snow kept falling and if they didn’t hurry up they would be stranded there and catch a cold, and Jongin probably couldn’t afford to get sick. “I got here in a spacecraft.”
“Uh-huh. And I suppose its name wasn’t the USS Enterprise, or was it?”
A sigh pushed past Kyungsoo’s lips as he stopped again and turned to face Jongin with narrowed eyes, clearly unamused by the other’s teasing and the mocking tone in his voice. Jongin was unfazed by this, having grown already used to Kyungsoo’s somewhat wild thoughts and irrationality.
Though Jongin had to admit that the possibility of him coming from outer space would make a very plausible explanation to Kyungsoo’s mild obsession for the stars and waking up before dawn to see the sunrise, and how easily he blended with the seasons as they changed.
Whether or not Kyungsoo was telling the truth about his origins, Jongin had no doubt that he was different from anyone he’d ever met. He was indeed out of this world.
“So… outer space, huh?”
“Yes.” Kyungsoo confirmed with a nod, snowflakes like diamond slivers getting tangled in his hair and full gardens blooming on his cheeks as the cold gave them a rosy colour, his eyes bright and full of mysteries Jongin wanted so bad to unveil. “I’m here on a special mission to study humankind and you just happened to spark my interest.”
“Yes, you.” Jongin’s laugh rang in Kyungsoo’s ears, but it died out when the latter took a step forward and once again grasped the ends of his scarf, giving them a light tug. “I’ve learned very interesting things thanks to you, like that some people are born with weak hearts but a strong will.”
“Some of us are just too stubborn to accept defeat.” Jongin mused with a shrug, letting Kyungsoo adjust the scarf around his neck although there was no need for any fixtures to be made, his own hands coming up to grip his wrists. The distance between them was of less than an arm’s reach now and the snow was still falling, piling up around their feet into small, white castles. A single snowflake fell on the tip of Kyungsoo’s nose and melted right away, making Kyungsoo’s face scrunch up. “Though I have to say, you’re pretty stubborn yourself too.”
Jongin shrank in himself when he saw Kyungsoo’s frown, bracing for the physical or verbal retaliation that would follow, but instead of a slap on the chest or a flick on his forehead he received something completely different that he would’ve never expected to get on a cold winter night after eating ramen.
Kyungsoo had used his scarf to pull him down and also as leverage to lean up to connect their lips in a gentle, innocent kiss that had Jongin’s mind suddenly going blank and then exploding with colours that spread to the rest of his body, painting his cheeks red and his fingertips blue.
The days were Jongin was either white or black were over and he was now swimming in Kyungsoo’s pink lips and silver grey hair, and figments of a conversation they had too many nights ago about what they thought stars would taste like crossed his mind.
They wouldn’t taste like blueberry or cotton candy, not even of bubble gum.
They’d taste like Kyungsoo.
“If it’s true you’re an alien then how come your skin isn’t slimy and green and your eyes aren’t all black? I mean, they’re huge already but they aren’t black.”
Kyungsoo arched a brow and huffed at Jongin’s comment, smoothing down some creases on the tablecloth as he set it onto the ground beneath a tree, placing some weights on the corners to keep it from lifting. “Now you’re being very rude and inconsiderate.”
Jongin set the basket in the middle of the tablecloth with a roll of his eyes before taking a seat, still wearing a cheeky grin on his face that didn’t go unnoticed to Kyungsoo. As soon as Jongin saw the corners of the other male’s lips curl up he knew he wouldn’t be in trouble, although Kyungsoo very seldom got upset at him to start with.
Kyungsoo’s heart must be healthy not only physiologically but also emotionally wise, Jongin figured, for him to be able to be so quick to forgive and so selfless and generous when it came to showing Jongin how much he cared for him. He was a bit on the crazy side, too, because he’d insisted on having a picnic in the midst of February and here they were, bundled up in their coats and scarves and armed with snacks and hot ginger cardamom tea to fight off the cold.
“I’m still waiting for your answer.”
“You not looking like an alien.”
“I am, though, and I will prove it.”
Jongin huffed before reaching into a container for a piece of kimbap, popping it into his mouth and chewing it thoroughly before finally swallowing the mouthful along with the words he’d been meaning to say. If Kyungsoo was indeed a visitor from outer space, did that mean he’d have to go back to his homeland at some point? “How do you intend to do that?”
“That’s easy. I’ll heal you.”
Silence. Rustling of leaves. A dog barking in the distance. Kyungsoo’s heart beating louder than usual and Jongin’s skipping a beat.
“You heard me. I’m going to heal your heart.”
“I’ll find a way.”
Jongin glanced down at his chopsticks as the cogs in his brain revved up in an attempt to keep up with Kyungsoo’s train of thoughts, but he was already lightyears ahead. He wanted to believe that there was an actual way to make his heart fully functional and that Kyungsoo was the one who held all the answers he’d been looking for, but the fear of being disappointed was stronger than hope right now.
And yet, Jongin chose to give hope a chance.
“Does your kind have special devices for that? Like, futuristic machinery to fix whatever isn’t working properly in someone’s body?”
Jongin felt a bit offended when Kyungsoo laughed at his well-natured questions, eating a rice cake this time to keep his lips from pursing and to fight the blush off his cheeks. He could always blame it on the cold, though, but he was sure that Kyungsoo would see right through his lie.
“I’ll show you soon.”
“Soon, Jongin. Be patient.”
“My heart might stop beating tomorrow, don’t tell me to be patient.” As soon as those words left his mouth, Jongin regretted saying them. He didn’t mean to come off as rude, especially to someone who’d only been supportive and caring towards him, but his frustrations often took the best of him and made an appearance in the most unexpected moments.
Kyungsoo’s expression fell a bit after the sudden outburst from the other boy and Jongin thought he saw the light in his eyes dwindle, guilt creeping under his skin at the sight and his heart being target of a new kind of pain −the one that wasn’t caused by a disease, but rather from hurting a loved one. Apparently, the biggest hazard to his heart was himself.
The prolonged silence between them finally reached an end when Kyungsoo moved closer to Jongin with a sigh, reaching for his hand and bringing it to his chest right where his heart was. The coat made it hard for Jongin to feel anything and, although Kyungsoo seemed to have noticed the flaw in his plan, he didn’t show any signs of awkwardness or embarrassment.
“Your heart will beat as long as mine does, okay?” Kyungsoo said softly, almost as if he was afraid his words might have the wrong effect on Jongin and would bring him more pain instead of relief. “And don’t worry if your heart stutters, because mine will be beating for the two of them.”
Kyungsoo pulled back upon hearing this and blinked down in confusion at Jongin as he tried to decipher the meaning behind his words, using the break to catch his breath and allowing the other boy to do the same. Maybe it had been the lack of oxygen which caused him to blurt out that piece of nonsense, who knows. “What?”
“Your bedsheets smell like Christmas. Like… pinecones and cinnamon.”
“You were thinking of that while we made out?”
Jongin couldn’t blame Kyungsoo for looking flabbergasted at this revelation, because he would’ve reacted the exact same way if the roles were reversed and Kyungsoo had been the one to say such an awkward thing. At least he wasn’t being laughed at (yet). “I’m− no, I mean− I was into it, I swear.”
“But yeah, your fabric softener does smell like Christmas.”
Kyungsoo sat back on Jongin’s lap, his legs folded at either side of his hips, and finally erupted in laughter. Jongin noticed how his hair (which he’d dyed a very interesting shade of brown that made Jongin think of caramel) was messy from his own fingers constantly tugging at the strands and also that his shirt was crumpled in some areas as well, but refrained from pointing it out lest to bring any further embarrassment upon himself. “Who’s the weird one now, huh?”
“Obviously still you.”
“Says the one who interrupted a kiss to mention that my bedsheets smelled like Christmas.” Jongin raised an eyebrow and shot Kyungsoo a pointed look, although he was also pondering over how to ask him to come back down and resume the kiss he’d very ungracefully cut off. “I have a question for you.”
“You always have questions for me.”
“Actually, I always have questions about everything.” And Jongin had to nod in agreement because it was true. “You aren’t supposed to do any kind of extenuating physical activity that might jeopardize your health in any way, right?”
“Technically. If it makes my heart rate go up, then it’s not very advisable.”
Kyungsoo narrowed his eyes and bit his lower lip, placing his hands at either side of Jongin’s head on the pillow to support his weight as he leaned forward. “What about sex?”
“Yeah. Are you supposed to avoid it too?”
Jongin blinked up at Kyungsoo, taken aback by the sudden question and what the other boy might be implying. “I don’t know. I’ve never asked my doctor and he’s never mentioned it either.”
“He’s never questioned you about your sex life? What kind of doctor is that?”
A whine left Jongin’s mouth just as Kyungsoo burst out laughing once again, dropping his head forward and resting it against the former’s shoulder as his body shook. “Stop embarrassing me.”
“You clearly don’t need my help to embarrass yourself, Jongin.”
“I beg to differ. I used to be a cool guy before I met you.” Kyungsoo huffed and leaned down to peck Jongin on the lips, his actions being rewarded with a hum of appreciation and warm hands back on his body.
“Don’t you want to give your doctor a call and ask him if having sex is dangerous for your heart?”
The question brought a smile to Jongin’s lips and when he pulled back he found himself staring into infinity, his reflection etched into Kyungsoo’s pupils like it belonged there amongst the stars embedded into them. “I say we find that out for ourselves.”
Spring was well on its way to becoming Jongin’s favourite season with its warm mornings at the park and ice cream dates with Kyungsoo twice a week, and the colours he once hadn’t acknowledged were now clear to his eyes −the days where life was monochromatic were over, and Kyungsoo was more than happy to take him by the hand through the colour wheel and let him soak in the yellows, pinks and blues.
At night, Kyungsoo would lay with Jongin and tell him stories about anything he could think of −mostly the universe− and his vast knowledge of the celestial bodies backed up the confession he’d made several months ago about him not being human but rather coming from outer space.
As crazy as it was, Jongin was starting to think that Kyungsoo not being human was an actual possibility.
“Aren’t you tired of just sitting here while I go for a run?”
Jongin looked up from his phone and saw worry and something he could only interpret as sympathy in Kyungsoo’s eyes, his own lips pursing in a thoughtful gesture as he pondered over whether to lie or be honest about his feelings. Joining Kyungsoo at the park was one of his favourite things to do even if it meant all he could do was sit on a bench and wait for Kyungsoo to be done so they could have an ice cream or head back home.
“It still makes me somewhat frustrated but it’s fine, I like it here. Besides, it’s better than staying home feeling miserable all by myself.” Jongin shrugged and reached for Kyungsoo’s hand, flashing him a smile that he hoped was reassuring enough to help dissipate his concerns. “Don’t look so gloomy. I’ve never been able to run anyway so it’s not like I suffered a major loss. You can’t lose something you never had, right?”
Kyungsoo’s expression remained unchanging, lower lip caught between his teeth and thick eyebrows almost meeting above the bridge of his nose. Jongin’s heart was still weak despite Kyungsoo’s promise to heal him and both seemed to be very well aware that it probably was never meant to be fulfilled, but Kyungsoo had given him so much already he couldn’t bring himself to be upset or disappointed.
“Do you want to join me today?”
“I beg your pardon?”
Kyungsoo’s frown disappeared and was replaced by a gleeful expression, his eyes crinkling up and lips curling up into a wide grin. “Why do you always sound like I just spoke to you in another language? Seriously, Jongin, I thought you would be used to this already.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to you, though. Besides I kind of like being surprised.”
“Then you’ll love this.” Kyungsoo pulled Jongin up onto his feet and gave his hands a squeeze before turning around and bending his knees a little, peering over his shoulder at the other boy who was looking at him as if he’d lost his mind. “Come on, we don’t have all day. Hop on.”
“I said, hop on. The fact that you can’t run on your own doesn’t mean you can’t run at all.”
“I’m fairly strong despite my looks. Come on, Jongin, it’ll be fun.” Jongin had his doubts about that last part but he didn’t dare question Kyungsoo’s sanity and logic either, especially because he knew that he only wanted to make him happy. Carefully, he climbed onto the other boy’s back with his arms locked around his neck and legs secured around his waist, and was pleasantly surprised to find that Kyungsoo didn’t seem to be struggling at all to hold him up. “There we go.”
“Please don’t drop me.”
Kyungsoo’s pace was steady as he jogged along the road whose turns and slopes Jongin had memorized already from walking it too many times, Kyungsoo’s musky scent mingling with the one of grass and dirt and Jongin’s cologne.
Both their hearts were beating fast and every puff of air that left Kyungsoo’s lips was a breath Jongin took for himself and filled his lungs with, and when he closed his eyes he came to the conclusion that being carried like this couldn’t compare to anything he’d ever experienced before and wasn’t what he thought running would feel like.
He was flying.
Kyungsoo was making him fly.
“I didn’t know you had so many moles.”
“Because you insist on always being the little spoon.”
“Maybe if you went shirtless more often I would’ve noticed sooner.” Came Jongin’s retaliation from behind Kyungsoo, fingertips connecting the moles of his back into abstract shapes. And, although Jongin couldn’t see Kyungsoo’s face due to their current position, he could sense him smiling at his idiocy.
“I get cold easily.”
“Kyungsoo, it’s the middle of July.”
“And also like two in the morning. Don’t make me kick you out of bed.”
Jongin huffed. “Would you dare kick me out of my own bed? That’s rude.”
Kyungsoo’s body shook in his arms as he laughed, and Jongin could only smile to himself and lean forward to kiss the spot right below Kyungsoo’s left ear, pressing his lips to the rest of the moles scattered over his skin and feeling his heart beating steadily beneath his fingertips.
Jongin counted Kyungsoo’s heartbeats to lull himself to sleep.
Kyungsoo counted the seconds he had left with Jongin.
It was the first day of September when Kyungsoo called Jongin to let him know he wasn’t feeling well and therefore wouldn’t be able to meet him later, and Jongin promised to pay him a visit at his place and bring some homemade chicken soup (and his presence) to help speed up his recovery. Kyungsoo had done the same for him earlier that year when he caught a cold so it was only fair he returned the favour, and he was sure that this was nothing Kyungsoo couldn’t overcome.
Kyungsoo was so much stronger than he looked, after all.
Jongin probably should’ve found it weird that Kyungsoo’s phone kept directing him to the voicemail whenever he tried reaching him or that no one got the door after Jongin spent nearly an hour knocking on it and sitting outside his apartment until the soup went cold and he became tired of waiting.
But he didn’t.
He probably should’ve been upset at Kyungsoo for not picking up the phone or letting him in, too, because there were supposed to be no secrets between them.
But he wasn’t.
When his phone rang later that night and Kyungsoo’s face popped up on the screen, all the hard feelings Jongin had forcefully pushed to the very back of his mind and heart struggled to resurface in the form of harsh words and rejection, but he decided to instead give Kyungsoo a chance to explain himself and his odd behaviour.
“Did you come over earlier?”
Jongin scowled at his half-eaten bowl of cereal and then at the phone lying next to it, swallowing the last bits of puffed rice and the remainders of sugary milk in his mouth and coughing a couple times in hopes of also pushing the hurt and anger down his throat. Hopefully the gastric juices in his stomach would dissolve them too. “Yeah. I even brought you chicken soup.”
“Oh, boy… I’m so sorry, Jongin. I had an awful headache and a runny nose all day, and I ended up passing out on the bed after taking a shower.”
Anger was still there, unfortunately, but guilt had joined it in Jongin’s throat and it was quickly spreading across his chest, ruthlessly prickling at his already weak heart. He was wondering if he should’ve tried kicking down the door or sneaking in through the balcony, although Kyungsoo living in a third floor made that a really terrible idea. “How are you feeling now?”
“Like a million dollars.” Naturally, Jongin smiled in relief upon hearing the news. “It was nothing serious, thankfully, and I’m feeling a lot better already. Sorry I made you worry and… sorry about today too.”
Jongin licked his lips to collect the remnants of sugar and picked up the phone as he leaned back, smiling back at the picture of a grinning Kyungsoo on his screen. “Drop it. I’m just happy you got some rest and all, although I would’ve loved to be the one taking care of you. Maybe if you gave me a spare key−”
“That would be pointless, Jongin.” Said Kyungsoo with a breathless laugh accompanying his words, which would’ve rung an alarm in Jongin’s head if he had paid more attention to them instead of being distracted by trying to not whine and come off as needy. “Because I won’t get sick again. I promise. This was just a one-time thing.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow, then?”
“And everyday onwards.”
Later that night, Kyungsoo found himself bent over the toilet seat with his hands gripping the edges and knees bruised from holding his weight up as he retched and gagged, more often than not choking up on his own multi-coloured vomit and glittery tears.
But this was no regular stomach flu, and therefore couldn’t be treated with homemade chicken soup or any prescription drug. Because then again, Kyungsoo wasn’t human at all.
Sweat trickled down Kyungsoo’s neck in rivulets as he stared into the toilet and the tiny universe that he had somehow created in it, metallic purples and velvety blacks staining the tips of his fingers and the white porcelain. Cosmic matter continued spilling from his mouth every time he tried to open it, and the bitter taste on his tongue reminded him of that one night a year ago when he asked Jongin what he thought the stars would taste like.
He remembered Jongin saying they’d probably taste like toxic substances that could kill him, and himself claiming they’d taste like vanilla bean, blueberry or even cotton candy.
He also remembered the taste of sour cream and onion on his tongue as he chewed on a chip he’d stolen from Jongin, and then offering half of his heart for him to take.
When everything seemed to be finally over, Kyungsoo pulled away from the toilet and crawled into the bathtub, extending a trembling hand to turn on the faucet before sitting back with his legs pulled up to his chest and dried trails of dead stars tainting his cheeks.
A smile grazed Kyungsoo’s features when he got a quiet hum in response to his calling from the male currently in his arms with his head tucked under his chin and arms wrapped around his torso, probably mere seconds away from slipping into unconsciousness.
“Let’s become stars.”
Jongin stayed still for a second before moving the hand resting on Kyungsoo’s lower back to the back of his head, threading his fingers through the strands of blue black hair in the process, and decided to briefly interrupt their cuddling session in order to look at him. The room was dark but the moonlight spilling through the blinds made it possible for his eyes to make out Kyungsoo’s face, although he already knew by heart every inch of his body.
Countless times Jongin had traced constellations across Kyungsoo’s back and gotten drunk on the taste of his lips, and he strongly believed that some actual healing had been done on his heart despite the latter never using any kind of weird machinery on him −maybe Kyungsoo himself was the cure, and his healing instruments had been none other than his hands and lips.
Once Kyungsoo fell asleep Jongin reached down to take his hands and brought them to his eye level, unable to think of a name to give to the mixture of emotions bubbling up in his chest and clawing at his throat as they tried to make their way up −shock, confusion, fear and helplessness, just to mention some, but Jongin forced himself to swallow them back down.
The skin on Kyungsoo’s fingertips had become translucent, flesh and bones nowhere to be seen and having been replaced instead by what Jongin could only think of as cosmic matter and miniature versions of other celestial bodies, and he soon noticed that the strange phenomenon was quickly spreading across the sleeping male’s body (was he actually sleeping, though?).
And yet, with the fear and confusion threatening to take over his heart and the growing pain in his chest, Jongin thought he could understand why all this was happening.
Kyungsoo had never been entirely his.
Kyungsoo had been telling the truth all along, about him not being human.
Kyungsoo’s presence on earth was never meant to be permanent, and his life was finally coming to an end.
Kyungsoo belonged in the sky.
Kyungsoo had lit up Jongin’s life during its darkest times and now he was burning up just like a shooting star crossing the night sky, and soon he’d be gone and there was nothing Jongin could do to stop what had already started and he had no control over.
Jongin counted Kyungsoo’s heartbeats as they slowed down, until his own stuttering ones were the only sounds echoing through the silent room.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy had always been a curse to Jongin and a major impediment for him to lead a normal life like the rest of the people his age, but losing Kyungsoo to the universe and being unable to do anything about it had left a wound in his heart so deep and so painful that it had triggered a major change in his perspective of life.
Kyungsoo left behind so many unanswered questions and just as many broken promises that would never be fulfilled, and Jongin had spent the past couple months trying to come up with a way to follow Kyungsoo into the sky, but his thoughts were so loud and confusing he was already having enough trouble telling them apart from each other and the white noise in his head.
“Have you been taking your meds?”
“Weren’t you scared of dying?”
“I’m still afraid my heart will stop and I’ll drop dead all of a sudden, you know.”
“Your heart will beat as long as mine does, okay?”
“You aren’t supposed to do any kind of extenuating physical activity that might jeopardize your health in any way, right?”
“Aren’t you tired of just sitting here while I go for a run?”
He was, however, able to catch that one last echo and, for the first time in his life, he was grateful to have been born with a weak heart.
It was a cold winter day when Jongin woke up to the sound of his own heart beating louder than usual and an insistent pounding in his head akin to hammering a wall, making it feel as if some little man had decided to make a bigger mess out of him by knocking down everything on his wake. He always thought that being free would be a synonym of a peaceful and carefree state of mind, but perhaps he’d been wrong all along and that’s what freedom actually felt like.
Jongin was sick and tired of being weak and getting so easily worked up over his physical limitations and, more importantly, he was tired of missing Kyungsoo. Life after him was no better than life before him and, since there was an actual possibility of having a life with Kyungsoo, wouldn’t chasing it be the most (and only) logical thing to do?
By the time Jongin reached the park he was panting a bit already and perspiration had gathered on his forehead and armpits despite the cold, but the sun had yet to rise and the moon was still up in the sky watching his every move, helping him count down the heart beats he had left until he became a star and joined Kyungsoo in his journey across the universe.
He adjusted the scarf around his neck out of habit and filled his lungs with chilly air before taking the first step down the road Kyungsoo and him had walked together countless times when they were together, except there was only one pair of feet leaving imprints in the snow today.
Five minutes into it and he was panting, the pounding in his head becoming louder and making him feel dizzy and somewhat disoriented.
Ten minutes into it and he was out of breath and his cheeks flushed, and not only was his heart struggling to keep up with his pace but he could no longer focus his gaze on his surroundings.
Twenty minutes into it and Jongin’s entire hands were becoming translucent as he began to experience the first symptoms of arrhythmia, electric blue and white cosmic matter dotted with gold spilling from his mouth and replacing his blood and bones. Just like it did with Kyungsoo.
Ten minutes past dawn and Jongin awoke with a gasp, finding himself looking right into Kyungsoo’s starry eyes that no longer held mysteries and doubt but rather offered answers and clarity. He could only smile to himself before leaning forward to kiss the spot right below Kyungsoo’s left ear, pressing his lips to the rest of the stars scattered over his skin and connecting them into new constellations as Kyungsoo laughed.
At last neither of them had to worry anymore about counting heartbeats or seconds, and now that the stars were finally within their reach they could find out if they tasted like vanilla bean, blueberry, cotton candy or bubble gum.
(They tasted like the promise of an eternity together.)