don't be careless when you don't have wings (paradisist) wrote,
don't be careless when you don't have wings
paradisist

station n

Title: station n
Pairing: Kai/Kyungsoo
Rating: G
Prompt: dépaysement - when someone is taken out of their own familiar world and placed into a new one
Summary: They meet on a train.



station n




It starts with a thud.


The sound startles Kyungsoo and he turns to see a black book splayed open on the dusty birchwood floor, its white pages turning aimlessly with the breeze. He frowns at his carelessness; he isn't usually so clumsy. He unloads the pile of books in his arms onto the counter and stoops to retrieve the book. He flips the book closed and does a double take. There is a small row of words on the black front and he squints at it. KIM JONGIN, emblazoned in size 7.5 gold print. Out of curiosity, he checks the leather spine for the author's name, but there is none.


"That's odd," he muses, opening the book and scanning the first few pages. On the third page, there is a small row of words inked into the centre of the paper.



A writer's mind is
the ultimate
death trap.



Kyungsoo frowns, flipping the book some more. He has been working in the book shop for years now, and this is the first time he's come across such a strange book. He isn't sure if "KIM JONGIN" is the title or the author's name, and he has never read such a peculiar author's note. It isn't dedicated to anyone, just a strange quote that he doesn't quite understand. He selects a page at random and frowns, running his finger across the paper. The pad of his finger comes away tainted with the slightest hint of black. He continues flipping, repeating his action until the smudge becomes more obvious.


The book is handwritten; the font is inconsistent, the cursive starting off big and ending off tiny and illegible. The lines are crooked, rising and falling like crescendos and diminuendos. Except this isn't a song; it's a book. He isn't sure if it's a diary accidentally dropped in the donations pile or just a prank by the gangly teens straggling through the streets at night, sending empty beer bottles crashing to the ground outside the shop. With the heavy book in hand, he knocks on the door to the shop's backroom.


"Come in."


Kyungsoo enters the dingy room, bowing slightly to the owner of the shop.


"Good afternoon Mr Kim- I mean Junmyeon," he amends, remembering the man's order to be addressed informally. "This book was in the donated pile but I'm not sure if it is a real book."


Junmyeon frowns slightly, pushing up his owl-rimmed glasses.


"May I see it?"


Kyungsoo hands the book over. He scrutinises the book, scanning the spine and interior, leaving no inch uncovered. After a while, he hands it back.


"You're right, it doesn't seem like a real book. You're free to dispose of it."


Kyungsoo thanks him and with the book in his hand, he leaves the room and goes back to the shopfront. A customer walks in and he quickly slips the book into the paper bag he carries to work. He'll dispose of it on the way home.












It is only when Kyungsoo has long passed the rubbish bin on his way home that he remembers the book in his bag. He takes it out, staring holes into the leather-bound cover. Out of boredom, perhaps, he decides to give it a try and flips to the page where the writing begins. It is too dark to make out the squiggly font and he waits until he reaches the train station before opening it again. The last train would take a while since he's missed the previous one, and so he takes the seat at the very end of the platform. Under the flickering glare of the fluorescent lighting, Kyungsoo begins to read.


The train is approaching.


Kyungsoo looks up, surprised. The train is approaching, it's flashing headlights illuminating the dark railway. He frowns, staring at the clouds of white steam streaming from the train's vent. The clock reads 11.55. The last train is scheduled to arrive at 12.00 exactly, and Kyungsoo has no idea why or how it is there, slowing down to a stop in front of him. There is no one else on the platform, and doubt flickers through his mind. It could have been due to weariness, the throbbing ache in his calves and the painful blister on his pinky toe, that he silences his qualms and stands, ready to board the train.


When the gleaming black machine jerks to a stop and opens its doors, Kyungsoo enters, book in hand.


The interior of the train is strangely empty. He looks down the lane of carriages, rows and rows of unfilled seats and space. There is something off about the train and he wonders if he should get out while the doors are still open. Just as the thought flashes in his mind, the doors snap close with a whoosh! and the train jerks to movement. Kyungsoo sits down on the seat closest to the door, ready to bolt if anything out of the ordinary happens. He looks around, hair on end.


The train is well and truly empty.


He sighs in relief, although this relief is shortlived as he sees a puff of smoke seep into the surrounding air, dissipating and disappearing into the clean air. He cranes his neck to get a better view of the next carriage, and sees a figure clad head to toe in mysterious black, back curved against the glass panel. In the man's hand is a white stick, the end a fiery orange smothered in wisps of grey seeping into the surrounding air.


Kyungsoo digs his nose into his scarf and frowns. He looks around for the "Smoking is prohibited in train carriages" poster but sees nothing but plain, bare walls. He makes up his mind to tell the man to stop smoking (because his cigarette is a fire-hazardous possession and could very well ignite the train into flames) and gets up when the book slides out of his loose clutch and falls to the floor with a resounding clatter. The man turns and his searing gaze causes Kyungsoo to freeze. His skin crawls with the feeling of being scrutinised, taken apart behind those soulless eyes. He quickly stoops to retrieve the book which had fallen open on its spine. His gaze lands on a line on the page.


The train slows to a stop.


As he straightens, book safely in hand, he feels the floor beneath him still. He looks out of the glass windows and sees the familiar brick walls of the station instead of the murky black walls of the tunnel. The train has stopped. Relieved, Kyungsoo rushes out of the train as soon as the doors open, and he stands stock still on the platform, back to the train and eyes squeezed shut. He hears the train pull away, and after a few seconds, opens his eyes.











Kyungsoo isn't sure why he is standing on the middle of the platform, a distance away from his usual seat at the extreme end; he isn't sure why there are suddenly so many people around him, all waiting for the last train. There is a fog in his mind, a distinct break between lanes as if he's zoned out from the world for a moment there. He looks down at the book in his hand and frowns. He isn't sure how he's read so fast, from page 5 to 10 without having any recollection of the content. He is about to catch up on the previous pages when the loud metallic scraping of wheels against railway sounds. The train is approaching, its flashing headlights illuminating the dark railway. He frowns, gaping at the clouds of steam escaping from the train's vent. He looks at the clock and it reads 12.00. The last train has arrived.


When the gleaming black machine jerks to a stop in front of him, Kyungsoo enters the train, book in hand.


The interior of the train is packed to the brim, and Kyungsoo barely manages to slip a bookmark on the page where he has stopped before dropping the book into his paper bag. He holds onto the railing, staring aimlessly at the buildings flashing by, cloaked in the darkness of the night. It isn't long before the train reaches the last stop, his stop. Kyungsoo gets off with the rest of the commuters, and for some reason, turns to glance back at the train.


It is well and truly empty.












The next time Kyungsoo opens the book is when he has missed the train again. The clock reads 11.55, five minutes before the scheduled arrival of the last train. He sits on his usual seat at the extreme end of the platform and finds the black leather-bound book in the paper bag he carries to work. He takes it out and flips it open to the page where he’s placed the bookmark. Under the flickering glare of the fluorescent lighting, Kyungsoo begins to read.


The train is approaching.


Kyungsoo looks up, surprised. The train is approaching, it's flashing headlights illuminating the dark railway. He frowns, staring at the clouds of white steam streaming from the train's vent. The clock reads 11.55. The last train was scheduled to arrive at 12.00 exactly, and Kyungsoo has no idea why or how it is there, slowing down to a stop in front of him. There is no one else on the platform, and doubt flickers through his mind. For some reason which he cannot fathom, he swallows his uncertainty and stands, ready to board the train. As he watches the train pull into the station, its shiny wheels chugging along the railway track and the white steam billowing through the small vent at the top, a gnawing feeling of déjà vu lingers in his mind, settling under his skin. The hair on the nape of his neck is standing on end and goosebumps peek out from the surface of his pale skin.


When the gleaming black machine jerks to a stop and opens its doors, Kyungsoo enters, book in hand.


The interior of the train is strangely empty. He looks down the lane of carriages, rows and rows of unfilled seats and space. There is something off about the train and he wonders if he should get out while the doors are still open. Just as the thought flashes in his mind, the doors snap close with a whoosh! and the train jerks to movement. Kyungsoo sits down on the seat closest to the door, ready to bolt if anything out of the ordinary happens. He looks around, hair on end. His breath hitches.


There is a man, the same man who was smoking in the train the previous day, sitting on the seat diagonally across him. Kyungsoo is glad that they’re on opposite ends, opposite sides, because in the man’s hand is a lighted cigarette, the end smoking embers, the simmering flame eating into the white tobacco-filled paper.


If there’s one thing he can’t stand, it’s cigarette smoke.


He’s never understood the logic behind it all, smoking a stick filled with tar and nicotine and all the irritants he learned about in his college years. Why waste money on something that kills? He watches the man from the corner of his eye, watches as he stares blankly at the cigarette, blinking slowly as the depressing grey clouds dissipate into the clear air. He doesn’t take a whiff, just looks at the cigarette through lidded eyes and a soulless mask, lips slightly parted. The air around him is still, fraught with the weight of ash and death.


Everything about the man seems lifeless, soulless and depthless. Like a man shrunk into his own daydream world of negativity, he is an empty shell, devoid of emotion or being. Just then, he turns, bottomless black eyes gazing deep into Kyungsoo’s eyes. The intense darkness behind those glassy windows render him unable to move or breathe. Like a deadly vise, a venomous snake, it clutches at him, smothering his senses. Frozen and unable to stop sinking into the cloying abyss, Kyungsoo clutches at his throat, knocking the book off his lap. It falls to the floor with a resounding clatter, and the sudden noise shatters the spell. He bends to retrieve the book, eyes landing on a particular line.


The train slows to a stop.


He rushes to the doors, legs a little unsteady. He can still feel the pair of eyes boring holes into his back, and when the doors part open, he staggers out onto the platform, breathing heavily. He closes his eyes and waits for the train to pull away, clutching the book tightly with a finger still on the page he last read. Page 15.












Kyungsoo isn't sure why he is standing on the middle of the platform, a distance away from his usual seat at the extreme end; he isn't sure why there are suddenly so many people around him, all waiting for the last train. There is a fog in his mind, a distinct break between lanes as if he's zoned out from the world for a moment there. He looks down at the book in his hand and frowns. He isn't sure how he's read so fast to page 15 without having any recollection of the content. He is about to catch up on the previous pages when the loud metallic scraping of wheels against railway sounds. The train is approaching, its flashing headlights illuminating the dark railway. He frowns, staring at the clouds of steam escaping from the train's vent. He looks at the clock and it reads 12.00. The last train has arrived.


When the gleaming black machine jerks to a stop in front of him, Kyungsoo enters the train, book in hand.


The interior of the train is packed to the brim, and Kyungsoo barely manages to slip a bookmark on the page where he has stopped before dropping the book into his paper bag. He holds onto the railing, staring aimlessly at the buildings flashing by, cloaked in the darkness of the night. It isn't long before the train reaches the last stop, his stop. Kyungsoo gets off with the rest of the commuters, and for some reason, turns to glance back at the train.


It is well and truly empty.













The train rides are getting longer. Kyungsoo’s lungs are bursting at the seams because he’s been holding his breath for prolonged periods trying to avoid inhaling the burnt smoke emanating from the man’s cigarette. They’re sitting on opposite sides still, though they’ve both moved from the extreme end to the seat beside it. The smoke is overwhelming; he can actually see the spirals of grey mist being exhaled at the end of the cigarette.


Kyungsoo is used to the stiff silences by now. It’s the same with every train ride; they’ll sit on opposite sides, alternating seats some days and standing on others, backs reclining against glass panels and smoke filling the spaces between them.


The man never smokes his cigarette.


Kyungsoo sneaks a look at said man across him and freezes when he sees him looking at him. Not looking at him, but through him, or maybe into him, Kyungsoo doesn’t know which. His eyes are a dark swirling charcoal black, a slow-burning compound of black carbon pigments all packed behind the glassy window panes. It unnerves Kyungsoo, that searing gaze that penetrates the thick coat he has on and ignites something within him. Awareness? Not quite. It is more of an awakening, in a sense, that maybe there is something burning, deep in the wells of the man’s core. A slight feeling that all is not lost, that if Kyungsoo digs deep, swings his shovel deep beneath all the hardened masks, there could very well be the endings of a spark.


He isn’t sure why he is even thinking of the man, and he’s quite sure something has possessed him when he hears his own voice ring out loud and clear over the smoke-clogged air.


“I’m Do Kyungsoo.”


The man smirks, the corners of his sinful red lips curling the slightest bit upwards.


“Kai.”


His voice is deep and rusty from disuse, and the sound startles Kyungsoo. He purses his lips uncomfortably, sitting a little straighter in his seat.


Kai, just Kai. Short and abrupt, like a sentence prematurely cut off. Just a short syllable that speaks a world of mystery, a soulless man swathed in his own darkness.


Kyungsoo fingers the book in his lap.


The train stops and he stands, feeling the heat of Kai’s eyes on his back again.


Kai murmurs something, his voice taking on a thoughtful tone.


Kyungsoo stills, one foot on the platform.


“What?”


It sounded like “D, O”.


“Just saying your name out,” Kai says, a smirk dominating his lips. Kyungsoo frowns.


“But,” he starts, stepping back onto the platform, “my name is——”


The train doors snap close before he can finish, the last image of a sardonic smirk ingrained into his memory.


Or so he thinks.





Kyungsoo stands among the crowd of weary-eyed business people carrying heavy briefcases on the platform, waiting for the last train.


He looks down at the book in his hand and smiles tightly, thankful for the bookmark keeping track of his last page.






They meet again on the train. Kyungsoo is beginning to get used to the stale smell of cigarette smoke, attributing it to Kai’s presence. As he stares at the man watching the opaque grey mist fade into the white surroundings, he starts to think that the smoke is really just a screen to mask the man’s uncertainties. A cover of some sort that shades him from the probing eyes of the world. Maybe Kai isn’t as cynical as he appears, his midnight-black hair hanging limp on his bronzed face and his eyes always lidded as if disoriented, physically existing but spiritually otherwise.


“You’re staring again.”


Kyungsoo swallows, a little shocked by the sudden accusation. Kai stares at him, carelessly flicking off the burnt ash at the end of the cigarette. They watch the grey particles flutter in the choked air before falling limply to the floor. Kyungsoo watches as a boot crushes them, twisting and turning. All that’s left is nothing but the measly scatterings of grey dust.


“Why do you do that?” Kyungsoo asks, gesturing to the cigarette.


Silence. They stare at each other, unrelenting, too stubborn to step down. Both questions are left hanging in the air, unanswered.


Kyungsoo closes the book in his lap with a loud clap. The train slows, the dark tunnel bleeding away into the familiar red brick walls.


As he waits for the train doors to open, he glances back at the man left alone in the train.


“What are you waiting for?” he demands, suddenly too tired to play along with his manipulative indifference.


Kai doesn’t answer, but Kyungsoo doesn’t expect him to, either. The train doors open and he steps out onto the platform. As the doors close, he hears a low mumble. He wonders if he misheard it.


“D.O.”













It has become a routine. Kyungsoo wonders if there’s something wrong with him, for there is really no other explanation for the blank gaps in his mind. There is no recollection of the intervals between the departure and arrival of trains, and as his bookmark runs deeper into the pages of the black leather-bound book, he begins to wonder if he might be suffering from memory loss.


The clock strikes 12.00 and the last train pulls into the station. The chilly night breeze blows the steam from the train’s vent into his face, and he can’t help but think: both are smoke, but one is purely white exhaust while the other is nothing but a fucked up mess of a certain person’s fucked up life.


He smiles, because for once he can’t understand himself.












It’s a new night, a new train ride. Kyungsoo reads the book, enters the train and meets Kai. As usual, the air is cloudy with grey mist that no longer fazes him, and he takes his seat on the row of seats opposite the tan-skinned man.


They don’t speak. Kyungsoo stares out of the window, watching black eat into black eat into black as the train rumbles along the track. He wonders if they are actually moving, because there is no sign, no way of telling if they’re eating distance when they’re moving through black. Utter darkness. It seems like he’s surrounded in monochromatic depression, black outside, grey air inside and the black wells of Kai’s eyes. A quicksand that traps all signs of life, eating him inside out. And that darn cigarette bleeding dead ash on the smooth floor, stark grey against white.


“You’re staring again, again.”


They’ve been here before, Kyungsoo thinks. It’s happened so often it’s become a routine, and the reply comes easily to his chapped lips.


“There’s nothing to stare at.”


Kai smirks, the type of smile that drips with sarcasm and cynicism. Kyungsoo finds himself tracing the curve of his lips with his eyes, wondering what it would take for Kai to smile. Genuinely. It leads him to another question: has he even smiled genuinely before?


Kai raises his brow, clearly amused.


“Staring again.”


Kyungsoo frowns.


“Has anyone told you you’re incredibly childish?”


Kai’s expression darkens.


The silent spell is cast and like a blanket it smothers any attempt at conversation. Kyungsoo reclines into his seat, exhausted. Their conversations are made up of one-liners, sometimes two, often dying prematurely with unanswered questions dangling uncertainly in the air. Kyungsoo waits for the train to stop because only then can he finally breathe. Inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide and not anything that kills his cells or paralyses his cilia like how Kai paralyses him with his searing gaze.


“You’re the first.”


Kyungsoo doesn’t answer. All the pauses and breaks in conversation have caused certain details to lose their importance, dropping into the endless abyss the gaps have opened. He isn’t sure what unanswered question Kai is answering anymore.


Kai doesn’t elaborate. He leaves his answer hanging in limbo, and Kyungsoo can’t be sure if it’s even an answer if he can’t remember the question in the first place.


He closes the book and the train stops at the station. He gets out. The doors close.


Silence.













Kyungsoo misses the train again. It’s starting to become a habit, a routine that happens every night. He sits on the stone seat at the extreme end of the platform, and out of sheer boredom, takes out the black leather book and reads it. He searches for his bookmark but it isn’t there; he must have dropped it somewhere. It isn’t like him to be so careless. No matter. He flips to about one-third into the book and reads, starting anew.


The train pulls into the station and as usual, he boards it, book in hand.


“Alone. So fucking alone.”


Behind all the smoke on the opposite row of seats is Kai, looking as soulless as ever. Kyungsoo sits at his usual seat, no longer bothering to cover his nose. He inhales deeply, filling his lungs with toxins, welcoming the itch in his nostrils.


“Yeah.”


Silence, the ever-repeating soundtrack plays over the dense air, and neither of them bothers to turn it off. It’s a numbing quiet that seeps into bones and seals dry lips, because some things are better left unsaid.


“Do you ever get off the train?” Kyungsoo asks suddenly. He’s never seen Kai leave, and it does seem rather too coincidental for them to meet every time he gets on the train.


Kai doesn’t answer, just blows rings of smoke from the grey cloud in front of him. Kyungsoo waits, because that’s all he ever does. Waits.


“There’s nothing to get off for. Life goes round and round, and I just let it take me wherever. It’s easier that way.”


“So you’ve never seen the outside world before?”


“I have. I just don’t remember. It’s nothing worth the energy.”


“If you think it’s nothing, think again. If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.”


They lock gazes. Kyungsoo holds firm, trying to break the reflective barrier that prevents him from seeing into Kai’s soul. He needs to, because otherwise they’ll be having these broken conversations forever.


Kai laughs, a dry and bitter sound that causes Kyungsoo to finally snap.


“You’re always running away. Whenever someone asks you a question you can’t answer, you either stay quiet or laugh. And what do you get? Disjointed conversations, miscommunication and misunderstandings. We can’t function without mutual understanding. No one can carry on and keep up with all these broken conversations and sky high fences; they’ll get exhausted of waiting and leave. Take down those walls you built around you and let me come in. I want to help. I want to talk to you, get to know you; but how do I do that if you hide behind yourself?”


No answer. The silence this time is nowhere near golden, and Kyungsoo snaps the book close. The train stops and he steps back onto the familiar platform. He doesn’t look back.


By the time the last train arrives, he doesn’t remember a thing.














The book shop closes early that day and Kyungsoo finds himself at the train station an hour before the scheduled arrival of the last train. He walks to the extreme end of the platform and notices in dismay that there is already someone occupying the seat. Weariness, perhaps, spurs him on and he sits beside the stranger wordlessly. He is about to take out the black leather-bound book from his paper bag when the stranger addresses him.


“Dreary day, isn’t it.”


Kyungsoo stares at the man, a little taken aback. He is pretty sure there is a saying about talking to strangers, but there is also a saying about being polite, so he blurts out an answer.


“Yeah.”


He can feel the man’s eyes on him and he turns to stare back, eyes trailing over the expanse of bronzed skin and silky black hair. The man’s eyes are as black as asbestos and as empty as the starless sky above them, and Kyungsoo can’t help but feel a peculiar sense of familiarity.


“Have we... met?”


The man laughs, a humorless, hollow laugh that echoes in the silence.


“Is that your excuse to ask for my name,” he murmurs, smile not quite reaching his eyes.


Kyungsoo is too transfixed by the man’s eyes to answer.


“Kim Jongin.”


“What?”


“Kim Jongin. That’s my name,” Jongin says quietly. Kyungsoo wracks his head; he’s heard that name before. It rings with familiarity but he just can’t place his finger on it.


“Do Kyungsoo,” he manages to say, still staring hard at the man as if doing that would make him remember.


He doesn’t.


(maybe that is because there is simply nothing to remember. maybe they haven’t met before and the pangs of familiarity do not amount to anything.)


Jongin sighs, a long, drawn out sigh that drags over the chilly night air.


“What’s wrong?” Kyungsoo asks.


“I’m tired.”


Kyungsoo looks down at his white sneakers and at Jongin’s worn ones, dirty and scuffed with everyday usage. He wonders if that’s the difference between them, the difference between his definition of tiredness and Jongin’s definition. Normal people define tiredness as the ache in their bones, the sore throbs in their muscles. Jongin's definition, however, is the weariness of living, of existing. Kyungsoo can tell by the glassiness of his eyes, the iris no longer a lively black but a resemblance of a mound of burnt coal.


Living fire begets cold, impotent ash.


“You talk like you’re tired of living,” Kyungsoo says pointedly, looking the man straight in his eyes.


They are cold, lifeless.


“What if I am?”


“Why?” Kyungsoo is curious. He’s never understood why people talked about dying. He’s never understood why when he was 15 and struggling with school, his best friend Minseok slit his wrists and died. Life is for living, just go along the one way road and make the best out of it.


Jongin laughs, and Kyungsoo reels from the artificiality of it all.


“You’re probably one of those sheltered people who think life is worth living,” the man says, tone almost scathing. “The type who innocently goes along the track and believes in the lie called Heaven. Well, the world isn’t as glitzy for most of us as it is for you. We have things called abandonment, crushed dreams. Have you ever had a dream and watched it disintegrate into ash in front of you? Have you tried your very best to piece back that dream but find that you can’t, no matter how much you try? And when all you’ve ever known and worked for goes crashing down on you, would you still say that life is worth living? I truly doubt it.”


The air is silent, sizzling with an underlying tension. Kyungsoo stares at his shoes, mulling over the weighted words. Sometimes, he’s found out, silence is the best probe.


“Everyone has a dream. I used to have one too. Such a naive boy i was, teetering on the line between over-enthusiastic and excited. I was a small boy with larger than life ambitions, and I worked hard for it too, harder than anyone else I reckon. I worked tirelessly for 12 years, gritting my teeth and bandaging my wounds. There’s a saying: “If a man washed his hands he could eat with kings.” I’d clearly washed my hands, and so I was amongst the top in the company. But nothing good lasts forever, and at the last moment a car crash killed everything i’ve ever worked for.”


“But i persevered. I tried so hard to make it work, to glue my shattered dreams back together. No, it didn’t work. Nothing worked. It was like life gave up on me, like god decided to shower his blessings on someone else. And you know what? I gave up on him too. Threw it all away, everything that mattered, from pride to love to integrity and lived on my own principles. Why live according to someone else’s rules when there’s nothing in it for me anymore? When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.”


The train comes and goes. Kyungsoo sits, unable to move a muscle as Jongin pours out his life story.


“There came a time when I eventually got sick of living. But i thought: I don’t want to fade away. I want to flame away; I want my death to be an attraction, a spectacle, a mystery. A work of art. And so I researched on how to make my life remembered. Write a book, said the internet. That way, you’ll forever be remembered. So I bought a journal. But I thought to myself, why be remembered as a tragedy? Perhaps deep down in my heart, I wanted to be saved. I wanted to change my fate; I wanted someone to love me. I created a whole new world, an alternate reality where there lives a boy who gets his happy ending, even if I won’t. Inked it on paper, this reality that I so badly wanted for myself. Maybe somewhere, somehow, another boy like me gets his happy ending.”


Jongin falls silent, finally out of steam. The space between them radiates with a deep sense of loss and pain, and Kyungsoo misses another train to try to mend the broken stranger beside him.


“What happened to the book?” he asks after a pause.


“Threw it away. I couldn’t finish it. Left it hanging. It took too much of my soul, too much of the energy that I didn’t have. I asked myself, why bother writing out a reality for someone to get his happy ending? It isn’t going to happen in mine, and it’s not doing me any good. It just made me feel angry, pissed off at god for depriving me of my rightful possessions. And then I remembered that I didn’t even believe in god anymore. Out went belief and the book after it. I was done being a good Samaritan.”


“Writing is self exhaustive. Everything you produce comes out of your own soul. Perhaps you really do want to be saved. Maybe you want something to hold on to, someone to hold on to you and tell you to live. Maybe all you want is just to be needed. To have some purpose in your life,” Kyungsoo says softly.


Jongin is silent for a while. They are both silent, looking at the crowds of weary people waiting for the train to take them home. Then Jongin laughs, so loud and so hard that Kyungsoo almost mistakes the sharp breaths as sobs.


(almost.)


It’s the sadistic, mocking kind of hollow laughter that cuts deep into the core. It sounds forced; a facade to mask the hurt that lies beneath. Kyungsoo watches Jongin with mildly concerned eyes. The man is laughing so hard that tears are leaking from his scrunched up eyes. A poor facade, for his knuckles are bleeding white from gripping the seat and his tears are too heavy to be the result of light-hearted laughter.


Hope is a dangerous thing.


The last train comes, finally, and Kyungsoo stands.


“I need to go. You coming?”


Jongin looks at him through bright eyes, the unshed tears in his eyes reflecting all the light from the fluorescent lighting. A ray of hope.


“Maybe.”


Kyungsoo isn’t sure how they’ve gotten over the barrier of strangers to sort-of friends in the span of an hour but he offers his hand anyway. Sometimes, a small gesture goes a long way, and Jongin looks like he needs the pull.


Jongin stands, ignoring his outstretched hand.


“The train has arrived.”


Kyungsoo bites back a small smile. They enter the train through different doors and stand among the crowd in different carriages, but they’re on the right track.















The new acquaintance fits into his routine easily. Kyungsoo arrives at the train station and sits at the extreme end of the platform - next to a certain Kim Jongin. Five minutes is all they have before the last train pulls in, but it is more than enough. Kyungsoo tries. He tries his best to help, digs deep into the dark well for the lone hand reaching up. It’s difficult fishing for the tiny hand when it’s shrouded in darkness but it’s all he can do to help. If Kim Jongin needs someone to hold on to him, he would be that someone.















There are five minutes to midnight. Kyungsoo sits next to Jongin on the seat at the extreme end of the platform, waiting for the last train.The man is digging the blade of a swiss pocket knife into the stone seat, carving Xs across the surface. He looks like a child thrown into the harsh reality of adulthood too hard, too fast. Kyungsoo doesn’t remind him that he’s not supposed to vandalise public property and holds his tongue, because Jongin is so deeply caught up in his own world that nothing can get his attention. They sit in silence; Kyungsoo stares at his clean white shoes while Jongin battles with metal, trying to drive the blade into the stone.


“What do you say to the god of death?” Jongin says suddenly, throwing the knife down in frustration.


Kyungsoo looks up, staring at the tiny star blinking in the night sky. He thinks, hard, because talking to Jongin is like talking to a ticking time bomb. Say something wrong and it detonates; say the right thing and it is pacified, calm for a moment.


He thinks and thinks, and soon, the last train pulls into the station.


He stands, albeit a little reluctantly.


Jongin picks up the pocket knife.


“Not today,” Kyungsoo blurts out, gripping the thin wrist tightly.


“What?”


“The answer. If the death god comes, you tell him: ‘not today’.”


Jongin smiles, and Kyungsoo isn’t sure if the spark in the man’s eyes is genuine or just a trick of the light.


“You should go. That’s the last train.”


Kyungsoo nods, a little breathless. Just to be sure, he snatches the blade from Jongin and rushes for the train, making it in just before the doors close.


The last train leaves the station.


Jongin traces the scars he made on the stone seat, then looks at the crosses on his wrist. They look identical.
















On some days when the sky is ablaze with twinkling stars, Jongin tells Kyungsoo bits and pieces of the classic bedtime story. Kyungsoo listens, because that’s all he can do besides holding onto Jongin’s sleeve as if anchoring him down to earth when he feels like letting go.


“It was difficult, of course. He wanted to be the best, the star that shone the brightest among a sea of twinkling stars. Hard work and determination didn’t cut it anymore; he had to sacrifice many things, his life, his friends, embrace enemies and rivals with sharp tongues and judging eyes... Even when it got tough, he held on, gripped on to the barre for dear life until there were indentations on the wood. He deserved every single praise he got.


“And then one day, god decided that this boy was too lucky and he took his watering can and sprinkled his blessings somewhere else. The boy hurt his back in one of those cliched car crashes you only see in movies and everything fell apart. He couldn’t do the only thing he knew how to do anymore. There was nothing in life for him anymore, so he thought, fuck it. Fuck the world. He grew up, became a jaded cynic who looked down on the happy people skipping down the street on a freezing December night. He scoffed at couples holding hands because he had no one, no one at all to take his hand, and so he stuffed it in his pocket-”


He breaks off, staring down at his hand. For once, there is a hand intertwined with his, fingers lacing themselves between his long ones. Their skin tones don’t match, one too fair and the other too dark, but it’s warm and comfortable. The world suddenly seems a lot brighter.


Kyungsoo smiles, the corners of his lips tilting upwards as he curls his fingers around Jongin’s cold hand.


I want to exorcise the demons from your past.
















Days pass with the scattering of stars across the night sky and the simple tunes Kyungsoo hums to fill the silence. They’re making progress; Jongin’s started learning how to smile again with his help. They talk about all sorts of things: ambitions, places, dreams, reality. When Jongin doesn’t feel like talking, Kyungsoo tells him about his mundane life. He tells him of his job at the book shop; he recounts the time when Junmyeon (the owner) locked himself in the back room on a Friday night and only got out on Monday morning when Kyungsoo came in for work. Jongin’s not impressed but he doesn’t expect him to be. His life is very normal, almost to the point where it’s the same thing happening each day.


“You don’t get bored?”


“No. I’m the sort of person who likes routine, relishes in the simplicity of going through life on a one way road. There isn’t anything to worry about this way.”


“How utterly unexciting.”


Kyungsoo cocks an eyebrow.


“And your life is exciting?”


Jongin scowls, and he laughs. They both laugh, pleasant tunes frolicking in the chilly air before the chug-chug-chugging of the last train arriving cuts them short.









The shop closes early again, and Kyungsoo finds himself at the train station an hour too early. Out of pure boredom, he digs in his cluttered paper bag and finds the black leather-bound book he’s neglected for weeks. He cranes his neck to look down the platform, but there is no sign of Jongin and he sighs, opening the book on a random page.


The train arrives and he boards it, book in hand.


He isn’t ready for the blast of smoke that fills his lungs, and he doubles over, choking and gasping. Someone laughs above the racket. Kai, a mocking smirk on his face, blowing cigarette smoke in his direction.


“Bastard.”


The man laughs even harder, and Kyungsoo doesn’t see what’s so funny.


“You’re so rigid; it’s fun to tick you off and watch you blow your top.”


Kai is in a good mood today. Kyungsoo sits on the seat directly opposite him, trying to take as little breaths as possible. Smoke fills the distance as usual, but for once he doesn’t mind.


“My name is Kai. I like grey. Monochrome colours in general. I like it when I manage to blow smoke rings from smoke. I like it when I look up and see grey clouds. I used to dance, but not anymore. I like Pororo, sometimes I like to imitate the krong! sound. I like -”


Kyungsoo laughs, big eyes crinkling at the corners.


“Pororo? Seriously?”


“I’m secretly a kid at heart.”


More snorts and laughter. Kyungsoo isn’t sure of the reason behind Kai’s sudden openness but he knows better than to question it. They talk and laugh, and Kyungsoo shares some of his stories. Like the one where he stepped on a snail when he was eight and cried, holding a proper burial for it by himself. Even as a kid he was very organised, and stepping on a snail was not part of the plan back then.


They talk, words flowing out easily like streams. No awkwardness. Kyungsoo laughs so hard that the book slides off his lap and falls onto the floor. The train slows to a stop.


“Till next time,” Kai says, usual smirk replaced by a smile. Kyungsoo is taken aback, but doesn’t comment.


“See you.”


He steps onto the platform and the train doors snap shut behind him. He doesn’t see the smile slip off the man’s face, replaced by a solemn gaze as he puts the cigarette to his lips and inhales.


Kyungsoo blinks.
















“Hey.”


Kyungsoo jumps, eyes widened in shock. There are beads of perspiration dotting his temples and his breath comes in short, sharp inhales. Jongin smiles.


“Whoa, why so jittery today?”


Kyungsoo manages a weak smile, and he switches the book in his right hand to his left. The gold print on the black cover gleams in the glare of the wall lights for just a short moment, but it is all it takes for Jongin to stiffen.


“Let me see that.”


He all but snatches the book from the man, fingers digging into the hard leather. He stares at the cover longer than necessary, then flips through the book in a hurry.


“What?”


Silence descends on them like a wet blanket, dense and viscous. The spell is broken by Jongin’s hollow laughter, the same laughter that sent a chill running down Kyungsoo’s back the first night they met. Hollow, cynical and mirthless laughter.


“Jongin, what’s wrong-”


He continues laughing, the sharp bouts of piercing laughter drilling holes into his long since hardened heart.


Of course. He should have known better than to hope.


“Jongin, look at me, what’s the matter-”


And for the last time in his life, Jongin puts on his mask.


“Nothing.”


Kyungsoo frowns, obviously not believing his feeble excuse.


“I just thought of a joke, that’s all.”


The train pulls into the station, and Jongin smiles, a smile that reaches his eyes for once, but it is a painful smile of hurt and lost hope.


“It’s 11.50 now. That’s the second last train.”


Kyungsoo nods, holding on to his elbow.


“Are you sure nothing’s wrong? Because you sounded just like-”


Jongin waves away his concern. “It’s crowded, better make sure you get a seat.”


They stand behind the crowd of people waiting behind the yellow line. The train jerks to a stop, white exhaust billowing into the cold night air. People shuffle into the carriage quickly, filling up the seats and spaces. Jongin nudges Kyungsoo forward. The carriage is packed to the seams; people are spilling out of the doors. He pushes Kyungsoo in and steps back onto the platform.


Kyungsoo frowns. “Aren’t you getting on?”


Jongin paints an easygoing smile on his mask. “Too crowded. I’ll wait for the last train.”


“Then I’ll-”


“It’s okay, I’ll be fine waiting alone. Don’t get out.”


“You sure?”


Jongin nods. The doors close on a still frowning Kyungsoo, and he waves goodbye as the train pulls out of the station and into the night.
















Kim Jongin stands all alone on the platform. He laughs, albeit a little belatedly, at his unfortunate fate. A tear rolls down the side of his cheek as he stares at the clock. 11.55. Five more minutes till the last train arrives. He walks along the edge of the platform to the extreme end where he and Kyungsoo first met.


“D.O,” he murmurs. The name of the character he created to save the Jongin in the book he wrote. He laughs again, almost hysterically because his life is really the most tragic thing in the world. Kim Jongin created the Kai in the book where he spilled all his innermost thoughts and wishes. He created the D.O who would save Kai in the alternate reality, the man who would give the Kim Jongin in an alternate reality a happy ending. How ironic for Do Kyungsoo, the man he hoped would save him, the real Kim Jongin trapped in the real world, to be the D.O that would save the Kai in the alternate reality.


Kai will have his happy ending with D.O while Jongin will be left all alone in the real world where miracles are nothing but far-fetched myths aimed at crushing the hopes of naive children who dared to hope.


“Left to be unsaved, left all alone is Kim Jongin, creator of it all.”


The clock strikes 11.59 and the last train rumbles along the track, coming into view. Jongin smirks as he walks to the edge of the platform, passing the yellow line and teetering on the edge between cement and air.


He remembers his friend Luhan’s words at the time when he almost fell off the stage because he was dancing too close to the edge.


“Don’t be careless when you don’t have wings.”


As the train draws nearer, he looks up at the starless sky, a sheen of tears in his eyes.


He doesn’t need wings to fall.


3.

He laughs.


2.

He closes his eyes.

1.

He jumps.



The clock chimes 12.00 and the last train pulls into the station. A minute later, it departs, leaving streaks of crimson red splattered all over the tracks. The scent of metallic copper lingers in the cold night air.














On his usual seat at the extreme end of the platform lies a crumpled newspaper, obviously thumbed through before. Kyungsoo opens it out of boredom because there is five more minutes till the last train arrives. He flips through the thin pages, scanning the grey paper for interesting news. His eyes flick to the bottom of the last page, and everything stills. His heart jumps into his throat.


MAN JUMPS IN FRONT OF TRAIN


He feels sick and clutches at his mouth, stifling the wave of nausea that comes with the realisation. The colours of the included photo are blurring; the words are swimming in whirlpools and he grips the brick wall for support. The same iconic brick walls of Seoul Station which are printed on the crinkled page, showing the cordoned off railway. His hands are shaking as his eyes flit across the page, searching for the incriminating name of the deceased.


On the last line, the last word.


Kim Jongin.


The world spins out of order. Kim Jongin, Kim Jongin fills his mind like a broken recorder that never stops playing the same old words over and over again. The blood drains from his face as his memory is triggered, and he rummages in his paper bag for the book. There, on the black leather cover, are the words KIM JONGIN emblazoned in size 7.5 gold print.


The world falls off its axis and spirals down into the endless black hole. Kyungsoo stills, staring holes into the cover. Of course, KIM JONGIN. Why didn’t he notice it earlier? That the Kim Jongin he knew was the KIM JONGIN who wrote the book? It suddenly dawns upon him that everything Jongin told him was true; he did write a book, the book that is in his trembling hand right now. Kyungsoo cannot recall the content, and he opens the book in a nervous hurry. The smooth leather book slips out of his fumbling hands and lands facedown on the floor with a resounding clatter. He stoops to retrieve it, ignoring the bookmark which has fallen out and starts reading the page that it has fallen open on. Page 205.


The train pulls into the station, and for the last time, Kyungsoo boards it, book in hand.


“Yo.”


Smoke engulfs him and it feels like an eternity has passed since they last met, for the smell of smoke attacks his airways like burning acid. He chokes on smoke and invisible irritants, eyes watering uncontrollably. He sits down on his usual seat and rubs his eyes, trying to dispel the pain. A creak, a dip. Kai smirks at him from the seat beside him, the kind of smirk that shows off his devil-may-care attitude. It’s a little too close for comfort, but for some reason Kyungsoo doesn’t move away. They watch the black scene outside the window.


“Do you know what black is?” Kai asks, his voice taking on a deep, husky drawl. Kyungsoo turns to face him.


"Is this a trick question?”


“You don’t know, do you?”


“What’s there to black? Black is just black. Darkness.”


Kai laughs, and Kyungsoo frowns. He’s heard that laugh somewhere before. The memory ghosts along his subconscious, teasing and elusive, and his head throbs.


“Black is everything. All the colours in the world mixed together makes black. It is the result of everything; it represents space, colour, night. It is the most colourful colour in the world.”


“What sort of reasoning is that?”


“Mine.”


They laugh, Kai bursting into amused laughter that echoes throughout the still air of the train. Kyungsoo laughs, uneasy chuckles that bubble from his lips. He isn’t sure why he is laughing when he doesn’t find it amusing at all.


Black is modest; black is arrogant. Lazy and easy but mysterious. Like smoke.


Kyungsoo looks at Kai, takes in bronzed nonchalance and mocking eyes. Long fingers wrapped idly around a thin stick, tapping ashes off the end of the burning paper. The smoke that rises is the kind that accentuates him, monochromatic wisps of grey molding into the hollows of his cheeks, shading his sharp jawline and misting his soulless eyes. It’s flattering in some angles, making him look like a man blessed with everything and anything, a mysterious figure with eyes of smoking asbestos. In other angles, the smoke makes him look sickly, washed out, the grey darkening the shadows under his eyes, the hollow darkness of his eyes.


Kyungsoo fingers the book in his hand. The smooth leather feels soft and pliant. He wonders if the black cover is blacker than the darkness outside. He wonders if it is blacker than Kai’s eyes.
Kai flicks his gaze on him and they stare deep into each other’s eyes. Kyungsoo swallows.


You don’t need water to drown.


This train ride is the longest to date. The pungent stench of smoke is ingrained into Kyungsoo’s memory, the cancerous particles embedded in his airways. He wonders how it would feel like to suffocate from inside out. He wonders how long Kai has been “smoking” and how many cigarettes he’s lighted, watching them disintegrate into cold ash. He wonders how many more he can light before his lungs choke on air and give out.


No one can survive without air.



Flowers have to breathe too.
I wonder if they die
when placed in an ash tray
of burning cigarettes
Just like how I’ll die behind this veil of white
smoke.




“Have you ever?”


“Ever what?”


“Ever dreamed?”


Kai laughs. Kyungsoo can’t shake the crawling feeling that he’s seen this before, done this before. The laugh seeps into his veins, pulsing through his blood and surging into his brain, echoing endlessly in his head.


“I did.”


Silence.


“Once upon a time, I did. But not now.”


Kai’s voice is laced with bitterness that leaves a revolting aftertaste, almost as bad as the cigarette smoke.


“What did you dream of?”


“I dreamed of making it big. I dreamed of dancing; I wanted to become the best dancer in the world.”


“What happened?”


“God fucking gave up on me. Everything gave up on me. All at once the dreams came crashing down where they shattered into millions of pieces on the floor. Impossible to piece back. I
got tired of trying.”


“That’s ...sad.”


“That’s right. Welcome to my sad life.”


Kai smirks, a mocking smirk that freezes on his face. Kyungsoo reaches out, tentatively at first, placing his hand over the man’s eyes.


“No one can see you now, so why don’t you just take off your mask and time out for a little while?”


The last of the cigarette falls to the floor in the form of grey dust; the smoke dissipates into the air and clears.


“No one is watching, Kai. The curtain has fallen. It’s time to stop acting.”


Silence.


Kyungsoo waits. His hand cools, the warmth transferred to Kai’s face.


“Today, let’s not pretend.”


At last the actor’s mask breaks and the painted smile crumbles, in its place quivering lips and salty tears. Slowly, he removes his hand and he sees the real Kai, the boy hiding behind the impenetrable armour and stage masks. His eyes are closed, thick eyelashes soaked with a sheen of tears many years overdue. Kyungsoo hums a tune, awkwardly pressing the man’s head onto his shoulder. He leaves his hand there, stroking the silky black locks. He closes his eyes and dreams for the both of them.


sleep away the sorrows of yesterday.


Kyungsoo awakens to a chilling darkness. His mind is a mess of crooked lines running into each other, rising and falling like crescendos and diminuendos. Words spiral across the thick fog in his memory, calling him from his dream-like slumber. He opens his eyes to see a pair of black irises staring at him.


“Hey.”


He manages a tight smile, gripping his head. As he does so, the book on his lap crashes to the floor with an earsplitting clatter. Kyungsoo jolts, eyes widened in shock. His world is a blur of monochromatic shades clouding his vision, and his head is being torn apart. He stoops to retrieve the book, and as he does so, everything falls into place.


The train slows down.


He turns to face Kai, eyes blazing with an accusatory flame.


Who are you?”


Kai raises an eyebrow, the beginnings of a smirk flowering on his lips.


“I’m Kai.”


“No. No, you’re not.” He shakes his head repetitively. “You’re Kim Jongin.”


“No, I’m Kai. Just Kai.”


He gets up, more than distraught. Too many faces, too many names that he can’t seem to grab hold of. The train jerks to a stop.


“Who are you, then?” The man smirks, dark eyes blazing into his soul. He feels invaded, hand reaching for the train doors.


They don’t open.


Kai smirks.


“What is your name?”


“I’m -”


He falters. He can’t remember. He doesn’t know. His hands shake and he looks at the book he is holding. His gaze falls on a line.


He opens his mouth.


“D-D.O.”


Kai smiles. “Correct.”


There is a creaking sound, a grating noise that shatters the silence. The floor is shaking, the plaster vibrating with the groundbreaking tremors. The train derails, wheels curving off the track and plunging down, deep down into the endless abyss of black.


“Next stop, station n.”


The book falls out of his grasp, landing with a thud on its spine. The pages turn with the wind and stop on the third page. There is a small row of words inked into the centre of the paper.


"A writer's mind is the ultimate death trap." - Kim Jongin


















a/n:  n - An unspecified or variable number: at the limit where n equals infinity. 


Hope you understood this confusing fic! Rushed it out in the span of two days in between school and homework and so it didn't come out the way i wanted it to...  feel free to ask questions in the comments if you don't get it! :)
MANY THANKS TO TLIST (xxbbq, akaanee,and many more (you know who you are)) for all the handholding and cheering through this really stressful period. <3
SPECIAL THANKS TO changdictator for participating in this with me and being my spazzing buddy when we were both stressing out over the deadline and lurking in google docs comment boxes. I got my plot straightened out just by typing it out to her. <3
And finally, THANK YOU SO MUCH TO THE LOVELY MODS OF AIDESHOU (and @KIMJONGlN on twitter for putting up with my capslock) for saving my butt and letting me scrape in this entry by the hair. I owe you my life.

Thanks to everyone who reads this! All the hearts for you <3 

(written for aideshou's 4th challenge! :))

Tags: kaisoo, station n
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