once upon a time. (adorableprince) wrote,
once upon a time.

Countdown (part one)

Title: Countdown (12k+)
Pairing: Kaisoo, minor Baekyeol
Rating: PG-13    
Genre: Romance, Tragedy
Length: Twoshot (1/2)
Summary: Jongin sees but doesn't see enough.

Jongin sees the world in numbers.

There are four lamp posts lining the street outside his apartment, two bushes next to his front door. He has only one neighbor instead of two because his place is nestled away in the corner of the street where the sound of passing cars fails to travel the distance to his second story window. On the other side of his apartment is a park with three tennis courts and two volleyball nets that he has never used before and will most likely never use in the future.

It takes him approximately five hundred and twenty seven steps to reach the bus stop that leads to his university, maybe less if he walks with longer strides. And when the bus arrives, students pack in like sardines in a vehicle meant to carry only fifty with seats provided for the lucky thirty that get there first. Jongin is never lucky.

He stands in the aisle, one hand clasped firmly around the cool metal bar above him and he sways to the gentle rhythm of stop signs and traffic lights, peering over the heads of those standing in front of him into what should be empty air but isn't. Glaring red numbers swim before him, hovering over the heads of people, no two numbers quite the same.

His eyes glance over at the snoozing boy who is resting against a window, headphones plugged into his ears. Above his head, the numbers 65:10:03:21:45:08 stare unwaveringly back. The girl texting rapidly on her phone next to him has numbers that are slightly different―67:09:17:11:43:50. It's always six numbers and always counting down.

For as long as Jongin can remember, he's seen these numbers without knowing why. No one else sees them and no one else believes him when he says that he does, that numbers float above people's heads and paint the world a bright shade of crimson. It takes him ten years to understand what the numbers mean.

Ten year old Kim Jongin stands at an intersection, his mother holding on to his hand and humming a merry tune, when a blur of running limbs and alcohol induced confusion darts out into the street where the light is green and cars are still zipping by. There's a crash, the sickening crunch of metal meeting fragile skin and bones. Screams fill the air and he recognizes the shrill screech of his mother's voice as she pulls him back and tries to shield his eyes from the gruesome sight sprawled across the road.

Jongin stares at the rapidly growing puddle of blood and thinks that it's a different sort of red than he's used to seeing but that's not what his eyes are focused on. Despite the frantic tugging and desperate yells, Jongin manages a glimpse through his mother's shaking fingers and he can't bring himself to look away from the numbers above the man's head.


He's never seen that many zeroes in a person's number before and a creeping sense of comprehension filters through Jongin's brain, forcing its way to the front of his mind. By the time the ambulance arrives, there are ten zeroes and an eleven resting in the air. Before they can even strap the man onto the stretcher, the last number dwindles down to a zero as well.

The man is pronounced dead.

Jongin takes large gulps of air like it's the only thing that will prevent the world from collapsing around him. He stumbles back into the safety of his mother's arms, his vision distorting with tears that threaten to spill over. Even through the film of salt and staggering realizations, twelve blazing zeroes blink furiously at him and Jongin finally knows what the numbers are.

Years. Months. Days. Hours. Minutes. Seconds.

A clock.

A slowly ticking life clock.

He spends the rest of the day with his eyes tightly shut. His mother thinks that he's been mentally scarred by the accident and panics when even weeks after the incident, Jongin refuses to make eye contact and stares resolutely at the ground, closing his eyes whenever possible. She is scared enough to send him to a child psychologist but is left with no answers when even the professional can't pinpoint the reason for her son's drastic change in behavior.

Jongin keeps this up for a good month until he accidentally slips one morning, eyes fuzzy with sleep and wrapped in the warmth of his blankets. His parents gently shake him, telling him to wake up for breakfast, and before he can register what he is doing he blinks and two sets of red numbers greet him. He cries himself to sleep that night because now he knows and how he wishes that he didn't know and couldn't see. He has so many questions but there is no one to explain.

Life after that just isn't the same.

"Anything new today?"

Jongin shrugs off his backpack and tosses it carelessly to the tiled floor of the kitchen. The chair grates against the ground as he pulls it out, jarring and abrupt. He leans back in it precariously, blowing an errant strand of hair from out of his face before he answers. Chanyeol is used to it. Jongin only speaks when he wants to.

"Mr. Kim lost three months."

Chanyeol hums in acknowledgement. "I'm not surprised, he's been drinking a lot since his wife divorced him."

He glances at his housemate from across the table and tries to crack a grin but Jongin is too busy staring at the ceiling to notice―lost in a whirlwind of numbers, time, and unhappy endings.

"But it means he'll stop soon right? I mean, he'd lose a lot more than three months if he really killed his liver."

Two terse words is all Jongin has to offer. "I guess."

Chanyeol coughs awkwardly and fidgets in the silence, posing a question so that he can hear something other than his frantic heartbeats. "Was that it?"

Jongin tilts his head down and fixes Chanyeol with a heavy, lidded stare, except he isn't looking at his friend's face. He's looking above him into swirls of red mingling with predestined fate.

"Jongin, don't."

"I'm not doing anything."

"Yes, you are." Chanyeol shivers in his seat, suddenly feeling cold. "So just...stop. I don't want to know."

Both of them sit there, neither making a move to get up or speak. The quiet unnerves Chanyeol but he can't leave. Jongin stares at him in the way that he often stares at strangers, confused and disinterested, and Chanyeol wants his best friend back. Anything but the uncaring statue that sometimes takes his place when Jongin is wandering in his thoughts, wading through what it means to know too much. Jongin is the first to break the ice, shuffling lazily to his feet and dragging his tired limbs to his own room.

He's standing in front of his door, hand hovering over the door knob when he throws a sentence over his shoulder. "You should lay off the sweets, you lost a day."

The door slams.

Chanyeol winces.

Jongin meets Chanyeol in his Greek Mythology class. He's the strange kid that's always loud, spouting off nonsense about alien abductions and conspirary theories. Chanyeol clearly doesn't understand the meaning of personal space or volume control or the fact that no one wants to listen to his never-ending speculations about magic at nine in the morning. It's only when Chanyeol accidentaly elbows him during one of his particularly vivid descriptions that Jongin shoots him a glare.

"You need to shut up."

Chanyeol pauses, arm frozen midair and mouth comically open before frowning. "What, you don't believe in supernatural abilities?"

Jongin just wants to go back to sleep, to retreat back into the confines of his crossed arms and black hoodie. Maybe it's the drowsiness or maybe it's because he hasn't had his morning coffee. Maybe it's the fact that a small part of Jongin wants someone to believe him, even if it's the insane classmate that doesn't seem to have a functional brain-to-mouth filter. The swirl of maybes spinning in his head drives him mad but it doesn't stop him from being surprised when the next few words leave his mouth. It takes him a couple seconds to realize that the syllables hanging in the air belong to him.

"Of course I do, I know when people will die."

The student to his left snickers and a few others chime in with that's a good one. Jongin's tense shoulders deflate and a disappointed rush of hot air seeps out of him. He's learned that when you start to expect things from people, people that have the power to hurt you, disappointment is bound to follow. A momentary lapse in judgment, he muses. That's all it was. In his disgruntled descent back to sleep, he misses the startled look on Chanyeol's face.

After class, when everyone is sidling out of the lecture hall and Jongin is only concerned with how fast he can walk back to his dorm where the comfort of warm linens and a soft pillow awaits, he finds himself pulled aside by the tall, lanky boy. He frowns because this is going to cut into his nap time before his next class but Chanyeol is looking at him a little too seriously and the hairs on the back of Jongin's neck are all standing on end.

"You weren't kidding, were you?"

Jongin's jaw snaps shut and his expression clouds. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"It all makes sense," Chanyeol insists. "You never look at people―well, I mean you do―but it's like you're always looking over them or sometimes it even seems like you can see right through them but you never look at them."

Chanyeol concentrates on him so intently, he starts to feel uncomfortable. There's no hint of the crazed boy that Jongin is used to and it's hard for him to reconcile these two personalities into something that makes sense. Jongin finds it hilarious that the first person to actually believe him is a demented stranger instead of his parents; the look of confusion on his mother's face is still fresh in his mind when he first voiced his discovery out loud.

He decided that it would be better if he kept his ability to himself, but now, the thought of someone else knowing is enticing. The secret claws at him from the inside and Jongin feels tired in an entirely different sense. It's a type of weariness that won't go away no matter how many hours he sleeps the night before.

Jongin studies Chanyeol uncertainly. "What's your name?"

"Park Chanyeol."

Jongin nods, more to himself than anything else, and then turns to walk away. Chanyeol runs after him in surprise.

"Wait, you never told me if I was right!" he shouts.

Jongin continues walking, throwing his hoodie over his head for good measure as Chanyeol tries to match his fast paced strides. He shoots the taller boy a slanted glance and his lip quirks up slightly to one side. It's a smirk but there's nothing friendly about it, not even condescension can be found, just shadows and bitterness.

Jongin points to a random girl walking across the courtyard. "Sixty three."

Chanyeol frowns, not understanding what Jongin is saying. "What―"

Jongin gestures at the boy sipping a cup of coffee on the grass. "Sixty."

And the list of numbers continues with each stranger that passes by.

"Sixty five."


"Seventy two."

It's not until Jongin's next comment that Chanyeol finally understands what is happening.

"And she only has fifty five years, I wonder why."

Dread seeps into his stomach. The way Jongin is speaking seems so distant and indifferent, as if he isn't talking about actual people with actual lives, like they're all nothing but numbers. Jongin parts his lips to utter another number when Chanyeol notices exactly who it is that he's pointing at this time. It's Baekhyun walking across the lawn, the same Baekhyun in his math class that Chanyeol has been crushing on since forever and his hand snaps out to cover Jongin's mouth before anything more can be said.

"Okay," he pleads. "I get it. You weren't lying."

Jongin stares at him blankly, reaching up to remove Chanyeol's hand. He readjusts his jacket before turning around and walking away, as if he didn't just shatter Chanyeol's perception of the world.

To this day, Chanyeol can't forget the look of complete apathy on Jongin's face.

Jongin has made a lot of bad decisions in his life. Befriending Chanyeol instead of running away is his first, moving in with Chanyeol after leaving the dorms and living with him for two years is his second, and now agreeing to go with Chanyeol to his Music History lecture is his third.

It'll be fun, he said.

The material is interesting, he said.

Except Chanyeol forgot to mention that the lecture is at seven thirty in the morning, a time when Jongin should be asleep and not thinking or functioning or doing anything that remotely involves human interaction. He's still somehow dragged out of his bed and thrust into the cold chilly air, pushed into a bus and manhandled all the way to the lecture hall, despite his various well-aimed kicks at his best friend's groin.

"This better be worth it," he mumbles while huddling into his sweater.

Chanyeol bounces back and forth on the balls of his feet with excitement. "Trust me, it will be."

Fifteen minutes in to the lecture Jongin realizes that it's a good thing he doesn't trust Chanyeol because the professor sounds like a wheezing llama and Jongin is bored out of his mind. He can't even sleep like he normally does since the classroom is relatively small, unlike the larger lecture halls that can fit hundreds of students, and Jongin is sure to be caught if he starts dozing off. Chanyeol insisted that they sit near the front of the room.

Jongin plays with the idea that this is all an elaborate plan to get back at him for eating the last pudding cup when he catches something unusual out of his peripheral vision. He blinks a few times and rubs at his eyes in confusion, wondering if he's seeing things, but after minutes of intense staring he's sure that he isn't.

"Who's that in the front row?" he whispers, nudging Chanyeol in the ribs.


"The boy with the short hair and large eyes."

Chanyeol leans out into the aisle and looks over at where Jongin is gesturing. "Kyungsoo?"

Jongin doesn't respond, his hands knitted together and chin propped on top of his fingers. Chanyeol watches as Jongin's face grows dark and he involuntarily shakes in his seat. He's seen that look enough times to know that Jongin is seeing something he doesn't want to see, that the person next to him is no longer his best friend, the one that smacks him with pillows and is fluent in sarcasm. This is the other side to Jongin, the side that Chanyeol saw on the first day that they met and the same disturbingly calm and cynical persona that reveals itself at random.

"Is he sick?" Jongin murmurs, eyes not moving at all from the top of Kyungsoo's head.

"Not that I know of."

"I see."

But Chanyeol doesn't see and he knows he'll regret asking but he does it anyway. "What is it?"

Jongin finally tears his eyes away from Kyungsoo to look at Chanyeol, his expression is curious but detached and Chanyeol hates it because that grim smile makes Jongin look much older than he is. He almost looks cruel, as if in his world people are nothing more than meaningless test subjects.

"There are two zeroes where his years should be."

Jongin goes with Chanyeol to his Music History lecture every day after that and though Chanyeol wants to stop him he can't. He watches helplessly as Jongin maneuvers his way into Kyungsoo's life, sitting next to the timid boy, a gentle brush of hands over a fallen pen, a sly grin as he asks to share books even though Jongin isn't registered in the class. He's not sure what Jongin is up to but he can't imagine that it's anything good.

To say the least, Chanyeol isn't surprised when one day Jongin breezes past him and over to Kyungsoo with an inviting smirk, the personification of confidence draped in a layer of leather and sexual tension. He sees the exchange with worry but steps out into the hall when Jongin signals for him to leave, it's a gesture with no room for argument.

He hesitates for a few seconds because nothing about this is right, Kyungsoo is being played with for who knows what reason and he should intervene. Except getting in the way of Jongin when his mind is made up is like a death sentence waiting to happen. Chanyeol sighs and makes a mental note to talk to Jongin later. Only when Chanyeol is gone does Jongin let the mask slip back on.

"Are you doing anything after this?"

Kyungsoo looks up startled. "Me?"

Jongin chuckles, there's no one else in the classroom that he could be talking to except for Kyungsoo but he humors the boy and nods. It started off innocently enough. Jongin was curious, curious about the boy with no years left, curious about the why even though he knows the when. He realizes that he isn't playing fair when a dusting of light pink splashes across Kyungsoo's cheek at his invitation but Jongin is too far gone in his need to pick Kyungsoo apart like a puzzle, the most fascinating puzzle he's come across in his life.

"I need to go to the hospital for a few hours?" Kyungsoo stammers, not meaning for it to come out as a question.

Jongin frowns. So terminal illness might actually be the answer to the great mystery. The thought is disappointing because it's too anticlimactic. Jongin thinks Kyungsoo looks healthy enough but looks can be deceiving.

"Are you okay?"

Kyungsoo stands there bewildered until he realizes what Jongin is implying. He waves his hands frantically in front of him while shaking his head.

"Oh no, I'm not sick," he gesticulates wildly. "I intern there."

Jongin shoves his hands into his pockets, crossing disease off the list once again as he hits another dead end.

"Sorry to bother you then, I guess I'll see you―"

"Do you want to come with me?"

Jongin looks startled as Kyungsoo slowly turns red in the face, the apples of his cheeks bleed an alluring shade of ruby against the usual paleness of his skin.

"Only if you want to," he blurts. "Like you don't have to, you might not want to, it could be boring, maybe you shouldn't―"

"I'll come."

Kyungsoo's head snaps up. "You will? I mean oh okay, of course you will―or not, of course―but you will and―"

His words trail off into a puddle of embarrassed rambling and fidgeting, a mess of sweaty palms and incessant heartbeats.

"I'm going to stop talking now," he whimpers.

Jongin smiles and a small alarm at the back of his head goes off because he's not faking it, the subtle stretch of lips over pearly whites is genuine. He ignores the warning bells and follows Kyungsoo with the excuse that this is an opportunity to learn more about the walking time bomb, that after his curiosity is satisfied, he can leave and live his life again. Jongin trails after the shorter boy as he completes his hospital rounds, discovering that Kyungsoo is vying for sainthood.

He interns at the hospital every Wednesday, volunteers at the homeless shelter downtown on Thursdays, and reads stories to children at the public library for an hour each Friday. Do Kyungsoo is the picture perfect poster child of kindness and selflessness, everything that Jongin scoffs and laughs at because he's learned that time doesn't stop for even the most benevolent of people. It's all one big joke but Jongin isn't laughing anymore.

He isn't laughing when Kyungsoo turns to him with a beaming grin, eyes crinkling into crescent moons.

He isn't laughing when Kyungsoo pulls him over to the bedside of his favorite patient. She has leukemia and she doesn't have very long left but she's an angel.

Jongin most definitely isn't laughing when he murmurs empty words of encouragement to the painfully frail little girl, noticing ironically that it isn't her that he should be worried about, that the boy with the cheesy smiles and blushing cheeks has even less time than she does.

Chanyeol stumbles into the apartment and nearly trips over the haphazardly thrown shoes in front of the entrance. He huffs in exasperation, this is the fifth time this week that Jongin has miraculously lost all sense of common decency, forgetting that Chanyeol is an accident-prone disaster waiting to happen.

"Yah, Kim Jongin! How many times do I have to tell you―"

Kyungsoo sits at the kitchen table, nursing a cup of tea with wide eyes at Chanyeol's sudden appearance. Chanyeol stops in surprise.

"You're not Jongin."

"Thank you for your wonderful observation skills," Jongin comments dryly as he leaves his room, a stack of books in hand.

He sits down next to Kyungsoo, scooting his chair as close as possible and gives him a welcoming smile. "Ignore the lunatic."

Any further snarky comebacks die on his tongue and Chanyeol flounders for a bit but quickly recovers, moving over to the sofa to turn on the TV. He idly flips through the channels, unable to concentrate on the images dancing across the screen because his mind is focused on the two boys sitting a couple feet away. An hour passes, Chanyeol eyeing Jongin with irritation and Jongin engrossed in soft whispers, flipping pages, and Kyungsoo's even breathing. When Kyungsoo gets up to leave, bowing awkwardly in Chanyeol's direction before scuttling out the door, Jongin casually walks him out. But when he makes his way back into the living room, Chanyeol's irritation has boiled over into anger.

"What do you think you're doing?"

"Studying," Jongin shrugs nonchalantly.

"Bullshit," Chanyeol growls, marching over and grabbing Jongin by the collar of his shirt. "This isn't a game. You can't just toy with people's feelings like this. Especially not someone with less than a year left."

Chanyeol's grip loosens and he leans away, his eyes imploring. "You've done some fucked up things in the past but this takes the cake."

"Who said this was a game?"

"Jongin, please."

"Look, I promise I won't hurt him okay?" Jongin makes eye contact, the expression on his face is unreadable but Chanyeol can feel the storm brewing beneath the facade.

It strikes Chanyeol for the first time that Jongin has no idea what he's doing either, that he's just as confused. Kyungsoo is tearing a hole in his wall of indifference and Chanyeol begins to think that maybe it isn't Kyungsoo that'll come out hurt in the end. Curiosity blends into interest and slides rapidly down the slippery slope of affection. He wonders how far Jongin has fallen from his original precipice because if this was a game, somewhere along the line Jongin has stopped reading the instruction manual. The rules no longer matter.

Jongin is losing. Kyungsoo is losing. Everyone is losing.

It's a game where there is no winner.

"What are you eating?"

"Fried rice?" Jongin mumbles with a mouth full of food, spoon still shoved into his mouth.

Kyungsoo wrinkles his nose in distaste. "That doesn't look like fried rice. It looks like all of your leftovers vomited into a box."

He leans over with hesitation and picks at something poking out of the lump of cold rice. "Is that a chicken wing?"

"Fried rice doesn't have to be magical," Jongin defends, yanking his lunch box away from Kyungsoo's prying hands. "You just throw in some  stuff and mix."

"That is disgusting."

"Stop judging me, I'm a poor college student. As if you could do any better."

"Is that a challenge?"

Jongin glances at Kyungsoo warily, unsure what to make of the boy's arched eyebrow and sly grin. It turns out the mischievous expression on Kyungsoo's face translates into Jongin's kitchen being taken hostage one Saturday afternoon, his cupboards raided, pots and pans littered across the stove.

"So you're going to cook me noodles?" Jongin questions, half of his body sprawled across the couch and the other half hanging over the armrest as he watches Kyungsoo with amusement.

"No, I'm going to cook you the best thing you've ever tasted," Kyungsoo mumbles because he's only half paying attention, busy taking things out of plastic bags and juggling ingredients from the table to the counter top.

Jongin snorts and rolls his eyes. "It's just kimchi spaghetti."

Kyungsoo chucks a spatula in Jongin's direction and smiles in satisfaction as it hits Jongin right in the forehead. "Don't diss it until you try it."

Jongin continues to sulk in a corner, rubbing at where he was hit and complaining every other second. Kyungsoo ignores him. He's constantly moving, boiling a pot of water here, checking the temperature there, lining the bottles of seasoning across the counter like his own personal army of flavor and wonder. Jongin can't help but think that this entire picture is too domestic and his stomach churns in uncertainty. The feeling isn't unwelcome, it's just different―completely foreign to the Kim Jongin of the past.

Kyungsoo opens the refrigerator and clucks in disapproval at what he finds inside, wondering how Jongin and Chanyeol have managed to stay alive for this long considering that the majority of their fridge is made up of pudding cups and Chinese takeout boxes.

"Your milk is about to expire," Kyungsoo throws over his shoulder as he notices the date on the carton.

The smile slides off Jongin's face and Kyungsoo looks up when the string of sarcastic and snarky protests suddenly stop. There's a faraway look in Jongin's eyes and Kyungsoo doesn't know what it means, all he knows is that he doesn't like it.


"Have you ever stopped to think about expiration dates?" Jongin's voice drops to a cold and frightening tone. "Once you know about them, you can't stop thinking about it. The milk is about to expire so I should finish it before that date. The bread is about to go bad, I should eat more of it."

He looks over to Kyungsoo except there is no eye contact. Kyungsoo is scared, Jongin is staring at him but not really, he's staring over him and that isn't too unusual but this time he feels like it is, that the few inches makes all the difference.

"Jongin?" he whispers again.

But there is no answer. Kyungsoo gets the distinct feeling that they aren't talking about milk anymore.

"So let me get this straight, if you could do anything right now you'd choose to win a stuffed animal out of a claw machine?" Jongin huffs. "I wasn't aware that you were a teenage girl."

Kyungsoo flushes indignantly. "I was never able to win one as a kid and I always wanted to do it just once. It was a childhood complex so shut up."

Jongin stares at him in disbelief, running a hand through his hair and holds up a finger for Kyungsoo to wait as he disappears into his room. When he shows up again, there's a bucket of loose change in one hand and he reaches wordlessly for Kyungsoo's wrist with his other, tugging him out the door.

"Wait, where are we going?" Kyungsoo stumbles as he tries to get his shoes on properly.

"To get you your stupid stuffed animal."

When they reach an arcade downtown, Kyungsoo is still very much disoriented, his left shoe is untied and he thinks Jongin is crazy. He's none too gently pushed towards an unoccupied animal claw machine.

"Pick a stuffed animal."

"Jongin, you don't have―"

"Pick one."

Kyungsoo fidgets nervously and peers through the glass until his eyes land on a cute black cat, it oddly reminds him of the taller boy next to him.

"That one?" he hesitantly states.

"Okay, now move out of the way and let the master do his job."

As it turns out, the master isn't very good at doing anything. Kyungsoo watches with stifled laughter as Jongin fails again and again, only stopping when Jongin shoots him a few angry glares to quiet down because he's ruining his concentration.

"I think it needs to be moved to the left more."

"I think it's fine," Jongin grumbles, tongue poking out of the corner of his mouth.

He pushes the button for the crane to descend and stomps his foot in frustration when it misses by a centimeter.

"You should have moved it to the left," Kyungsoo hums.

Jongin glowers at the empty plastic cup in his hand, the same cup that had been filled with coins just an hour earlier. He's now missing a load of change with nothing to show for it. The black cat grins mockingly at him from the top of its tower of furry friends, a public testament to Jongin's failure.

Kyungsoo's eyes soften. "It's okay, you know. I still had fun."

"The machine is rigged."

Kyungsoo pats him on the shoulder in sympathy.

They walk home together, Jongin dejectedly moping and Kyungsoo trying his best to cheer him up. Jongin is so distracted that he misses the other boy leaning in to interlace their fingers. He isn't aware that they were even holding hands until they reach his apartment and Kyungsoo lets go with a wave. Jongin stares at his still warm hand and somehow manages to wave back.

The next morning, Kyungsoo wakes up to a knock on his apartment door but when he opens it there's no one outside. Instead, a very familiar looking stuffed black cat sits on his welcome mat. There's no note but he doesn't need one to know who it's from. A blinding grin stretches across his face as he leans over to pick it up.

Hidden around the corner, Jongin smiles.

Jongin is happy for Chanyeol, don't get him wrong, but the public display of affection happening in front of him makes him want to claw his eyes out.

"Guys, I'm still here."



Jongin picks up an apple and throws it at Chanyeol who finally lets go of Baekhyun long enough to acknowledge Jongin's existence.

"The two of you sicken me," Jongin looks absolutely revolted as he gets up to refill his glass of water. Maybe if he drinks enough water, he can flush the disgust out of his system.

Chanyeol can only pout when Baekhyun elbows him to let go with a short laugh, turning to Jongin with a smile. "So you and Kyungsoo?"

Jongin pauses, his cup halfway to his mouth. "What?"

"Nothing," Baekhyun states. "I saw you two at the arcade the other day, I think it's cute. You two match well. And I know it's still a couple months early but you should invite him to the Christmas party that I'm throwing―"

Baekhyun is interrupted by the sound of breaking glass. Jongin's eyes are on fire and he's breathing heavily, the shattered pieces of the cup he was holding littered across the sink.

Jongin glares at Baekhyun and the brutality of the stare makes Baekhyun cower in surprise. "Shut up."

He storms out, hand still bleeding from where the glass shards cut into his palm, but he doesn't care. Jongin just needs to leave, he needs to get out and away from the thoughts in his head, away from the swirling nightmare of red numbers. Chanyeol calms his startled boyfriend and chases after Jongin.

"Hey!" he shouts, catching up to Jongin as he walks briskly down the dimly lit street, one hand clamps onto his shoulder to spin him around. "Are you okay?"

Jongin lets out a bitter laugh. "Okay? That's a funny question."

"Look, I get it―"

"No, you don't get it!" Jongin lashes out with fury and resentment. "You don't know what it's like to meet people and actually be able to see the bad choices they make impact them in ways that you can't change. You don't understand how I feel every time I see someone make a poor life decision that costs them weeks, sometimes even months, and I can't say anything because who would believe me?"

Jongin is pacing like a rabid animal and he's beyond irritated, years of antagonism and isolation seeping out of his skin all at once.

"So don't tell me you get it because you don't get anything. I can see the when but I'll never know the how or the why or the what and it's killing me because Kyungsoo―"

Jongin is choking on air, his lungs refusing to supply him with what he needs as his heart races a mile a minute. The flickering street light bathes him in an eerie glow of yellow tinged anxiety and Jongin wants to fall and collapse so he won't have to see anything ever again. Chanyeol watches his best friend break apart in front of him, all he's able to do is hold him as he splinters.

It's only much later, when Jongin's erratic sobs have quieted down into uneven breathing that Chanyeol speaks again. "You lashed out when Baekhyun mentioned the Christmas party."

He hesitates when Jongin freezes in his arms. "How long does Kyungsoo have exactly? Not even until then?"

Jongin shoves out of Chanyeol's hold and staggers to his feet, eyes red and angry. He doesn't answer the question. His lips flatten into a thin line and he walks into the night, losing himself in the chilly air and suffocating silence.

Chanyeol watches him go with sad eyes.

"Jongin?" Kyungsoo asks surprised when he opens his door at three in the morning to a dark, hooded figure.

"Grab a jacket and give me your car keys."

"Jongin, what is―"

"Just do it, please," Jongin begs, his voice breaking on the last syllable and Kyungsoo swallows the lump in his throat when he notices that Jongin's eyes are red as if he had been crying.

Kyungsoo runs into his room, throwing open his closet to grab the first jacket he can find and grabs his keys off of his desk. He pads softly to the door where Jongin is leaning against the frame and holds the keys out to him. Jongin smiles sadly and grabs his hand, pulling him out into the hall, shutting the apartment door behind him. Kyungsoo follows without a word, only allowing himself to trace over the solemn features of Jongin's face when they're both buckled into the car and flying away down the deserted streets.

They drive for hours, the car a dark inky blur against the equally gloomy sky. Pinpricks of light dot the open expanse above them as they swerve around cliffs, into and out of tunnels, and away from the city. When the car finally rolls to a stop and Kyungsoo opens the door, he is assaulted by the sound of crashing waves.

The ocean.

Kyungsoo trails after Jongin, slipping his sandals off when he sees Jongin throw his sneakers and socks to the side. Jongin walks until he reaches the line between sand and roaring water, falling on his back and closing his eyes as he lets the wind hurtle into him. Kyungsoo sits down next to him with a chuckle. It's nearly 6AM and they're sitting on the vacant shores of a beach, it's both insane and spontaneously thrilling. Kyungsoo's hands dig into the damp sand and he falls down alongside Jongin until their sides are pressed together, Jongin's warmth seeping into Kyungsoo.

"I like it here."

Kyungsoo turns his head to the side, cheek pressed against the coarse grains to look at Jongin.

"Everything's so loud and overwhelming that you can't even hear yourself think," Jongin murmurs, eyes still tightly shut. "No thinking, just being."

His lids flutter open and he stares at Kyungsoo, drinking up his features like a starving man. Jongin just stares and stares and stares, a splitting grin breaks across Kyungsoo's face. Jongin wills himself to forget and he steadfastly keeps his eyes focused on Kyungsoo's lips so that he won't feel tempted to look a few inches above him to the constant reminder that the world is severely cruel.

And then he leans in. Their first kiss tastes of chilly ocean air, bittersweet memories, and salt―though whether it's the salt of the water washing around them or Jongin's silent tears, he will never know. Even behind his closed eyelids he can see the faint glow of haunting red. When they part, Kyungsoo is positively glowing and Jongin kisses him again in desperation, as if the joining of their lips can keep him here with Jongin for one more second, one more minute or hour or anything that time has to offer.

Around them, waves melt into foam, a seagull lets out a shrill cry, and the sun starts to rise.

Another day slips through their fingers.

[ part two >> ]

Tags: countdown, exo, g: romance, g: tragedy, p: kaisoo
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