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

Sillage

Title: Sillage
Pairing: Kai/Kyungsoo, Kai/Jongin, Sehun/Luhan/Kai
Rating: R
Length: 10k
Summary: Jongin lives an infinite number of lives through his dreams. Kyungsoo happens to be in all of them.
Warnings:[click to view]drug abuse, implied character death
remix of shanwens Knock On Wood forkpop_ficmix.
(Original post here**)














Sillage




He’s here again. Jongin watches him through his wine glass, drinking in his rich black suit and checkered tie, slicked hair parted to frame a pale face the colour of milk. His small frame slips through the throng of people at the poker table like a shadow swathed in a halo-like aura. Jongin rises with a scrape of his chair, throwing down his cards. There is a commotion at the table; the masked men protest and their female counterparts gasp because no one leaves in the middle of a poker game. He doesn’t care, just pushes past the crowd and follows after the man’s back. Dim lighting casts a circle of black at his feet and he quickens his steps, long legs eating up distance. The shadow of the man before him bleeds towards his; he must be getting closer. He stretches out a desperate arm but instead of a solid shoulder his fingers close in on a cloying darkness.

Jongin opens his eyes to blinding sunlight blazing through the open window. He sits up lazily, reaching out to close it and block out the glare of the morning light. He could have sworn he’d closed it the night before – he never sleeps with the window open. A breeze flutters in as he does so, ruffling the papers on his desk and sending some flying. His calendar reads Friday,13th. Friday the 13th.






Jongin yawns as he slides into his chair at the bank. It’s 8am in the morning but in the world of money no time is too early. He starts up his laptop and fixes himself a mug of instant coffee, black. The taste is bland, bitter, biting. He swallows the black concoction and immediately straightens, fingers flying over the keyboard.

Jongin's day goes like this: he spends the morning crunching numbers, opening and closing computer windows, keying tiny numbers into excel sheets and watching the world stocks graph fluctuate. It’s all very systematic and realistic, just black digits on a white screen. Jongin keeps to himself; his colleagues keep to themselves. It’s a pretty lonely job.

(He prefers it this way.)






Lunch time rolls around and his boss throws open the door. The sound shatters the silent spell and eyes are torn from laptop screens.

“We have a new associate joining us. His name is…” Mr Lee glances at the new guy for an introduction because bankers' brains aren't for remembering names; it’s for calculating figures and making fast money by the seconds.

“Do Kyungsoo. Nice to meet you.” The new guy bows slightly, figure rigid and nervous. Jongin narrows his eyes, squinting. The man is so pale that his skin blends with his white shirt which disappears into a pair of black pants and shiny new shoes. He fades into the white walls like an apparition, a zombie that has never seen sunlight.

Jongin stares blankly as New Guy draws closer, eventually placing a laptop bag on the desk beside his.  His eye whites remind him of sleeping pills.

“Nice to meet you, I’m Kyungsoo, I’ll be sitting here starting from today. You are…?” New Guy says. His voice is silky soft and slips into his ears like a whisper.

“I’m Jongin. Kim Jongin.”

“I look forward to working with you.”

Jongin doesn’t tell him that there is no such thing as “working with you”. The speed of money does not allow for conversation or cooperation; it sucks one’s time and changes it into the currency of gold in digits. Figures that translate to cash, crisp papers filling wallets and crumpling with exchange. A world within a world where one can only be wholly involved in one world and an empty shell in the other.

(It’s pretty clear which world Jongin has chosen to be a part of.)






At 6.59pm, there is a sudden quiet bustling in the room. Everyone is struggling to squeeze a heap of money into sixty seconds, freezing fingers jabbing away at keys and racing against the clock to change what they can, build a little more of their world. Then 7pm hits and as if on cue the sun dips past the horizon and the darkness descends upon them. Exhausted backs fall against straight-backed chairs, work done for the day. The bank accounts are locked up, investments halted in their side of the world, stagnant till the next day. Jongin reaches for his cup of coffee and gulps down the remaining bit.. Kyungsoo leans over and frowns disapprovingly, eyebrows furrowed.

“You shouldn’t drink coffee in the evening. It makes it difficult to sleep at night.”

Jongin blinks nonchalantly at him and shrugs.

“There are many ways to fall asleep.”

He stands, grabs his coat and leaves with the rest of the bankers.






Jongin curses. He only stopped at the convenience store to get a riceball and five minutes later it’s raining mercilessly. Pelts of icy water spray his shirt, soaking his skin even though he’s under shelter. It’s freezing; he shoves his arms into his coat and curses again at the dark sky. An army of pedestrians crowd the pavements and zebra crossings with umbrellas for armour and Jongin can’t help but think how stupid he is not to have brought one. The weather forecast hadn’t predicted rain and he’d believed them. Bastards.

A white umbrella falls over his side and the shadow causes him to look up. It’s the new guy at work, Do Kyungsoo, and the slanted showers flatten his hair with each spray.

“Need some cover to the bus stop?” His voice is soft and sincere, like the r&b singer he used to listen to in high school. Soft jazz.

“Thanks.”

It’s a quiet walk to the bus stop, the drumming of rain filling the silence between them. It’s a comfortable rhythm, and there’s a light spring in Kyungsoo’s step which makes the puddles splash a little more on Jongin’s leather shoes. The umbrella bobs from side to side and rain drips onto his shoulder like gentle taps.

Rhythm of rain, blues of night.






Call it coincidence or fate, they get on the same bus and walk the same way home. The rain has lightened to a drizzle by the time they stop before a high-rise apartment block. Jongin decides to challenge how farfetched fate can go when they both stop at the 13th floor.

“What a coincidence.”

Yes, a coincidence. Jongin watches Kyungsoo run a hand through his hair, flipping the wet strands to the side, framing his pale face and exposing a cutting jawline. He swallows. There’s a tingling at the back of his head, a shuffling of cards and the scraping of a chair. Jet black hair glinting under the dim light and –

“You okay?”

Jongin blinks. Kyungsoo regards him with mild concern, hair falling limply over his left eye.

“You zoned out for a moment there.”

“…Yeah. Yeah I’m fine. I should get going.” Without waiting for an answer he turns on his heel and heads for his house.






He doesn’t expect to reach this early. The inky black sky is devoid of stars, but the glimmer of gold makes up for it tenfold. Black suits juxtaposed against the white backdrop of silk tablecloths with a whiff of grey cigarette smoke for that added touch of mystery. As if poker isn’t enough of an enigma. He takes his seat at the table and waits.

High stakes are reserved for Friday nights, and no one is more game for risk than Dime. A crowd surrounds the table, anticipation exhaled in their cold breaths. Dime, with his silver mask reflecting Jongin’s face, deals the first card. Jongin watches his movements with practised indifference. His reflection stares back at him, expression solemn. It’s like playing poker with himself.

(It’s obvious who the winner will be.)






4 rounds later, with Jongin growing bored and Dime still going strong, he catches a glimpse of him through the throng of faces blurred with smoke. It’s enough to make Jongin slam his cards facedown and abandon his opponent, cutting to the chase. Cigarette smoke clouds his vision but Jongin’s determined, eyes fixed on the moving figure. The beat of jazz music thrumming through the thick air sets his blood pounding and he gathers speed as he walks through corridors, turns corners and comes straight in line for the elevator. The man enters the elevator and faces the mirrored wall, back to him but Jongin can see his pale reflection all the same. The elevator doors start to close and Jongin charges forward, squeezing an arm in between the slit just before it closes for good. He sighs in relief but it is short-lived as the doors re-open to the sight of his reflection, dark skin and blazing eyes.






Jongin wakes up to the cold surface of the bathroom floor. He turns, and winces as a sharp pain cuts into the side of his face. His shaking fingers graze across a shard which has embedded itself in his cheek. He dislodges it and it comes away with a thick coat of red which gathers at the sharp end of the glass. It’s a piece of the bathroom mirror which lies shattered all around him. There’s an empty bottle of vodka by the tub and a squashed Marlboro box. He rips it open and lights a stick with the lighter he stowed in the box.

He inhales shakily, and the world is alright again.

(For now.)






There’s something oddly calming about sitting on a window ledge at midnight. Dangling legs bouncing off cement and fingers drumming against the cold aluminium sill, only half gripping on for safety. The stars are out blinking, scattered haphazardly across the black backdrop of sky. It reminds him of a painting he’d seen in an art exhibition in middle school. Called “Stardust”, it was just a black painted canvas with blobs of white for stars. What intrigued him wasn’t the painting itself but the description below it. It was about finding oneself, about finding one’s unique way of living life by joining the dots of stars in one’s own way. He had stood in front of the painting for ages, trying to map out his route. Oddly enough, there were so many ways he could join the stars, he never ran out of ways to do so. In that moment, he truly believed he could lead an infinite amount of lives, all in different ways.






He lights a cigarette. It’s a very therapeutic pastime, sometimes even a necessity, but mostly a comfortable routine he finds himself coming back to more often. He sucks at it, sipping in the bitter smoke and releasing it in a puff of white that dissolves into the darkness. It’s a form of cleansing, he supposes, toxins entering the body and leaving but not before poisoning some lung tissue. Give and take – it’s a little like medicine. A refuge, a taste of bitterness so the air he inhales after is sweeter in comparison.

He nurses a tune out of cracked lips. Crappy Cartel – he used to listen to their songs on the ride home from high school in the backseat of his sister’s boyfriend’s car. He remembers looking out of the car window listlessly while his sister and her boyfriend made out in the front seats. He really should have known her boyfriend couldn’t be trusted to drive and told him right then and there. If he did that he could have saved her life two weeks later when her boyfriend drove her back from prom and off the winding hill.

He laughs. Feelings, memories – they always surface on Saturday nights. Weekends without work are filled with tossing and turning, itching fingers and wandering thoughts. Thoughts that sometimes wander too far and creep into the dark corners of his memories.

There’s a creaking sound of a window opening and Jongin turns to see a pale face with big doe eyes gaping at him.

“Aren’t you going to come down?” Kyungsoo says, silky voice tinged with poorly disguised fear.

“I like it like this,” Jongin shrugs. He taps off the cigarette end and they both watch the ashes flit down 13 floors.

“Is there something wrong?”

Kyungsoo’s pitying gaze ticks Jongin off and he forces a jarring laugh.

“What makes you think there’s something wrong? I’m perfectly happy the way I am. Really.”

Kyungsoo just stares blankly at him, gaze sinking a little too deep for comfort.

“Well, you gotta live a little, right.”

Jongin lets go of the sill and drops off the window ledge almost defiantly, becoming one with the darkness. He lands face flat on the cement below, impact infuriatingly painless. No blood, no broken bones, no death. He looks up. The curtain of the next door window flutters.

Just then, a roaring noise tears into the scene. A Harley Davis motorcycle in an obnoxious electric blue, its masked rider all decked out in black.

“Get on.”

It sounds like Kyungsoo, and yet a little like the lead singer of Crappy Cartel - Jongin can’t decide. But he’s always had a spark for danger so he throws caution to the wind and hops on the monster ride.

“Take it away, Rider.”

“Hold on tight.”

The scent of leather and musk of the man in front of him intoxicates Jongin, sends a wave of headiness through him. For once someone else is taking control, and to be honest it’s much more fun to just take a back seat and let the unknown drive him.

The wind ruffles through his hair and stings his eyes. They’re tearing through empty highways, blazing trails of red light and electric blue across black granite, leaving their marks in the form of tire tracks. They stop a little past the road sign “Dead End Ahead” and make out. Jongin’s halfway gone, drunk with the sound of Kyungsoo - yes, Kyungsoo's low moans and the feel of his jaw against his palm. He presses kisses into his neck and palms the straining bulge beneath his own. The Crappy Cartel song plays repetitively in his head.

Just let go, let it all go
We’re gonna break outta town
Live in our own world, just us both


They send the Harley Davis to its death after that. Straight past the dead end, splintering through the wood barricade and headfirst into icy water. The last thing Jongin hears is Kyungsoo’s laughter before he sinks underwater and bubbles rush to his nose.






With a jolt Jongin shoots up, spraying soapy water all over the walls and floor of the bathroom. He pants for dear life, coughing out suds and maybe a little liquid soul, clawing at his throat. Pruny, wrinkled skin protrudes from the surface of the murky water. On the floor beside him is a bottle of beer and a box of pills. Sleeping pills to aid sleep. He’d taken it before stepping into the tub so that when he got out he’d be nice and sleepy. It had apparently worked too fast, and he’d knocked out in the tub.

He pads over to the mirror. There’s something in the gleam of the new mirror that reminds him of the motorbike’s shiny blue paint, and he slides his hand into the front of his wet shorts.

His touch feels a little too familiar.






The elevator door is about to close when someone presses the button, opening it again. It’s Kyungsoo, looking neat in a perfectly ironed shirt and black pants with his hair combed to the side, exposing his ear. Jongin takes him in through lazy half-lidded eyes.

“Had a good rest during the weekend?” Kyungsoo asks, aiming for casual conversation as the lift doors close. Jongin grunts. A tense silence follows. Kyungsoo looks at the floor and Jongin stares at the door.

“You’re not very into talking, are you?”

Jongin shrugs.

Kyungsoo shoots him a dirty look. The elevator doors open at the ground floor and he walks out, not waiting for Jongin. Not that he cares. Really.

It’s Monday morning, Jongin’s favourite day of the week. He settles in his seat, boots up his laptop and spends his day crunching numbers and changing fates. People win money, people lose money, but Jongin ensures he’s always on top of the game and only gaining, never losing. He takes risks, kicking others off the ranks and climbing up himself. It’s all very simple.

“What is your problem?” Kyungsoo asks, breaking his concentration. “You treat this like a game. Kill or be killed, except you do all the killing.”
His words echo in the stifling silence.

“You are absolutely right. So?”

“You don’t understand. All this – it’s not just numbers. Every number represents a person, a bit of his story. Money isn’t created; it’s passed around. When you kick people off the ranks you forcefully take their money, all their investments and affect their lives. Who knows, you could have just taken away a father’s savings he invested for his kid’s future education. Doesn’t this mean anything to you?” Kyungsoo’s voice is soft but provoking.

“No. You see, to me, it’s all just numbers. I do what I have to do for my clients’ best interests. For the company’s progress. For my own satisfaction. Money is a separate world altogether. As long as I don’t mix in people and emotions it won’t affect me.”

Jongin can feel the heat of Kyungsoo’s gaze on him but he chooses to ignore it and goes back to work.

“I feel sorry for you,” the man murmurs, turning back to face his laptop.

Jongin stops typing.

“What?”

“I said, I feel sorry for you.”

“What makes you think I need your sympathy?”

“You don’t know love and care at all. In fact, you’re right. These are all just numbers to you. No feelings attached, no lessons to be learnt, just winning all the way. You will never feel the happiness of helping people increase the amount in their bank accounts - money that will help them lead better lives. Maybe you only want to win because you’ve lost too much in the past already - lost too much that nothing matters any more and all you care about is advancing and leaving everything behind.”

Kyungsoo stands and leaves. His words dig up old wounds that Jongin doesn’t want to
open and his hands tremble a little. He goes back to typing.






Try as he may, Jongin can't seem to fall asleep that night. The digital clock on his bedside table reads 11.58pm. Two minutes to midnight. He reaches for his cigarette box but to his dismay it's empty. He's out of his prescription sleeping pills too, he realises as he rummages through his bedside drawer. There's a bottle with the label ripped off rather messily stashed at the very back of the compartment. He can't remember what they're for but the pills are big and white and remind him of two very big eyes.

He puts two in his mouth and swallows.






It's 12am, a brand new day. The eerie green of the digital clock blinks repetitively in the darkness like a silent alarm. Jongin reaches over to turn it face down. As he does so, lurid reflections appear on the walls in distorted, sinuous shapes. Someone's singing in the apartment next door, soft tunes filtering in through the open window. Jongin grips his pillow, clutching it so tightly that his hands tremble. It's not due to fear – he's seen this all too many times.

In such troubled times, he picks up his phone and dials a number. A tinny digital voice greets him with false cheer.
Jongin listens to the voice, each word calming the fast beating drum of his heart. The shapes on the wall dance to the music tinkling in the background, resonating in the silence of the night.

He closes his eyes, clutching the phone with a vice-like grip and lies painfully awake.






Jongin awakens to city noises, traffic and the occasional flapping of passing crows. The sides of his eyes are crusty with dried tears and the phone lies dead by his side. He sits up, squinting from the glare of the morning sun. His room is ablaze with sunlight, a kind of invasive brightness that cancels out last night's darkness. His skin toasts in the heat but he decides against closing the curtains.






“Are you okay?”

Kyungsoo's forehead is creased with reluctant concern as he reaches out a hand to feel Jongin's head. Jongin flinches slightly but stays still while the man rummages in his desk drawer for medicine. Things are swimming, faces are blurring. Jongin's eyes fall shut as he collapses on the table.







He awakens to a sea of white. The ceiling is white, the sheets are white, the walls are white, even his arms are pale like the colour of fresh snow. He sits up slowly, groggily rubbing his eyes. Attached to his wrist is a web of wires, all connected to a big machine with white lines running over a black screen. It looks like a hospital of sorts. It makes him queasy, nervous, the colour white seeping into his skin and clouding his thoughts. With a determined wrench he rips out the needles from his wrist and immediately the screen goes dead. He gets out of bed and pads to the door, sliding it open. His hospital gown pools around his ankles. It reminds him of the traditional death robe worn in funerals.

The hallway is deserted. A crawling feeling slithers down his spine as he walks towards the flickering exit sign, clammy feet sticking to the cool floor. The corridor seems to stretch forever as he passes doors and more doors but encounters nothing but the chilly air conditioning ghosting past him.

“Hello?” he calls out.

Suddenly, the lights go out and Jongin is plunged into darkness. He stumbles backwards, a ball of fear hurtling up his gut as cold gusts of artificial wind pass him, washing away his trembling voice. A cold hand wraps around his arm and he's about to shout when the lights flicker back on and it's a man clad in full white, surgical mask covering the lower half of his face. It's Kyungsoo, and yet the image stirs memories in Jongin's head - memories dating back to the earlier part of his teenage years where a certain dark-haired doctor dominated most of his stay in the hospital.

“Let's get out of here,” Jongin says, standing up. Kyungsoo complies, ditching the mask and together they run in the opposite direction, away from the exit sign. The white walls fade into a blur as they go. It reminds him of spinning white walls and liquid foam down his chin, but that's a chapter of his past he doesn't want to revisit. He looks at Kyungsoo running beside him, one head shorter than normal, pale skin becoming one with the walls. Jongin grips his hand a little tighter.

(It's like looking at a younger version of himself.)






“You ok?”

He awakens to a sea of white. The ceiling is white, the sheets are white, the walls are white, and when he turns so is the person by his bedside. Jongin blinks.

It's Kyungsoo, eyes wide with chiding concern. His hair is a little messy, strands falling out of his usual neat parting. Jongin blinks again, harder. Still Kyungsoo.

He sits up groggily, head pounding. Attached to his wrist is a needle attached to an IV drop.

“You passed out at work. Mr Lee told me to take you to the hospital,” Kyungsoo says, voice controlled with intended indifference but the telltale worry is apparent in his gaze. The sides of Jongin's lips twitch but he stops himself. He can't remember the last time he smiled.

“You know, I should really get back to work,” Kyungsoo says, frowning as he checks his watch.

“You should,” Jongin agrees. Kyungsoo's gaze rests on his, eyes searching, and Jongin blinks back with drowsy half-lidded eyes.

The man sighs.

“You know, you really should just say what's on your mind instead of the opposite.

Kyungsoo turns to pour him a glass of water by the stand. Jongin doesn't tell him that it's a lot easier to keep things to himself because even if he voiced his inner thoughts no one would listen anyway.

(He's long since tired from trying.)






Kyungsoo takes it on himself to nurse Jongin back to health. Jongin lets himself get fussed around, just because it's new to him and he (kind of) likes the feeling. Home cooked food tastes infinitely nicer than convenience-store rice balls and meal replacements.

“You know, I wanted to be a nurse once. Or a playschool teacher.”

Kyungsoo breaks into random conversations a lot, Jongin realises.

(It's hard to keep a conversation going by yourself; it's a bumpy road filled with sudden stops and potholes but he always seems to keep trying anyway. It's one of his best features.)

Kyungsoo chops some green onion sticks while Jongin leans against the kitchen counter. It's night time and they're making dinner at Kyungsoo's apartment.

“My parents wanted me to go into business or something more stable. Money was more important than fun, they said. I wanted them to lead a good life, and so I followed their wishes and went into banking. It's lackluster and boring and I guess I should quit since they're already having a good life in Heaven but somehow I can't bring myself to do it. I've already buried my dreams and it's too much trouble to dig it out again.”

Kyungsoo pours the chopped spring onions into the boiling pot. Jongin watches him stir it, steam rising and misting at his eyes but the sheen of tears is clear from this distance.

“What about you? What was your dream job?”

Jongin shrugs. He's about to give a noncommittal answer when he stops short.

The pot bubbles, foams and spills over.

“I wanted to be a dancer.”

Images of a distant past flood his mind and Jongin lets himself be swept away. It's been too long.

“When I was thirteen I was selected to be the second lead for this recital with my good friend Sehun. We loved dancing and worked really hard for it. The senior who played the main role – his name was Luhan. He was always nice and friendly and he had a really pretty smile. Sehun and I liked him a lot. One day, we snuck into the practice room and hid in the closet, wanting to surprise him. It was his seventeenth birthday. He came in and sat down and we were about to pounce but someone called him on his phone and he answered. We waited. From where we were we could see tears streaming down his face as he put down the phone. He put something into his mouth and grabbed one of the opera masks prepared for the recital and put it on. And then he started talking to himself and went out with a long red ribbon. We were scared out of our minds – it wasn't the same senior we knew. We crept out of the closet and looked at the place. I remember looking at the bottle of pills on the table, this bottle with the label ripped out. I pocketed it as we ran about looking for him. And then Sehun screamed. Luhan was hanging on a red ribbon, legs swinging in a circle and casting a shadow on stage. It was ironic because he was always the bringer of light.”

There's a faint throbbing at the back of his head. Jongin lets his words trail off and silence fills the void between them. He doesn't want to carry on because if he talked more about Luhan he'd have to bring in Sehun, and it would be a tough decision between which one was a more painful tale to tell. The vision of legs swinging aimlessly in mid-air, chair knocked over below him, dark shadows pooling where his figure blocked the light, and Sehun's pained sobs as he fell to the floor was enough to make his lips tremble.

“I'm sorry.”

“Don't be. It doesn't matter anymore.”

“What did the letter say? Did it say why he...?”

“It was in chinese. Yixing – Luhan's chinese buddy – said it meant: Nobody cares until it's too late.”

“But that's not true. You cared. Your friend cared.”

“Perhaps it wasn't enough.”

A whistling sound interrupts them and Kyungsoo switches off the stove. A pleasant, slightly spicy smell wafts around the kitchen as he lifts the pot's lid and ladles the stew into a large bowl. Jongin sits at the kitchen table, feeling out of place. (Dinner time is usually spent on his bed by the window, blowing smoke rings into the night.) Here, they're seated at a cozy table with a big bowl between them and a bowl of rice each. There's a subtle air of intimacy that comes with the sharing of food, and Jongin finds that rice is actually much nicer warm and slick with gravy than the riceballs at the convenience store.






Kyungsoo washes the dishes while Jongin stands at the window and looks out at the night sky. There's a cool breeze in the air and it radiates a sort of quiet calm and understanding. It runs through him like steel, toughening him up from the inside out. It's an invincible feeling, and he wonders what would life be like if he is made of steel. A mix of titanium and stainless steel, hard metal that won't chip off no matter how hard he falls.

That night, Jongin sleeps with his phone beside his pillow.

"Call me immediately if you feel unwell," Kyungsoo had reminded him before he left, having loaded his extra sheets on him to keep warm at night. Jongin buries his face in Kyungsoo's blanket, inhaling the strong scent of washing detergent. Like soap, it washes away the lingering stench of his cigarette smoke.

Jongin sleeps like a baby that night, stomach bloated and head drowsy. He wakes up with the sun shining in his face and realises that he feels rejuvenated. He hasn't slept so well in a long time.






It's Wednesday, only midweek but Jongin can't seem to focus at work. Everything is too bright, too noisy. He’s eating a lot more, alone a lot less; Kyungsoo has accommodated to work and started talking to their colleagues; everything is going fine, in fact life is livelier than usual. It’s almost comforting to settle into the sense of security Kyungsoo has forged. But there's something tinkling at the back of his mind, something he can't quite remember. It haunts him from a distance, dropping teasing hints and evading him when he tries to follow.

It scares him because it feels like he's forgetting something very important.






It hits him when he's on the way home alone after work two weeks later when Kyungsoo is down for a partnership meeting.The evening news is being broadcasted in the convenience store and the news anchor's crisp voice drives an invasive rhythm through the drumbeat of silence in his head.

"Man found dead in hotel room due to overdose of sleeping pills-"

There's a clatter as the can of tomatoes slips from his hand. Jongin doesn't pick it up. How could he forget? He heads to the pharmacy section of the store and rummages through the boxes of pills, hands trembling with insistence. He picks up his usual, grabbing as many as he can hold and heads straight for checkout. The cashier, a man with big ears and gleaming white teeth jovially asks for a prescription but Jongin doesn't give him one. Chanyeol, according to his name tag, lets him go anyway, and winks at Jongin as he leaves. When he gets home, he finds a crumpled piece of paper stuffed into the bag.

A little goes a long way, it says in sloppy, barely legible handwriting. Jongin snorts. He crushes the paper and drops it on the floor carelessly. He shakes some pills out and swallows them dry, then gets into bed and closes his eyes.






"Jongin!"

He turns. It's Luhan, delicate features sharpened with kohl and colour applied two shades darker to appear normal under the harsh stage lights. His masculine physique is molded in a black bodysuit (for the Chinese piece Midnight Moon) that sucks in light instead of reflecting it. It reminds him of a black hole in the galaxy.

"Wish me luck for later! I'm still kind of nervous," Luhan admits with a smile, although his forehead is beaded with sweat and the lines around his mouth stretch a little taut. But it's to be expected - even the best dancers feel anxious performing in the Grand Theatre which would house 1000 seats, all eyes on the stage. The pressure to be perfect doubled one thousand times.

"Good luck," Jongin says, smiling a little. It's really too easy to slip into the routine of the old days when he looked at the senior with childish adoration.

"Thanks! Have you seen Sehun?" At the mention of Sehun's name Luhan's face brightens a little, and Jongin's smile recedes as quickly as it had come. He shakes his head, and watches Luhan disappear to the backwings in search of Sehun. He should have known.

He watches from behind the curtains as Luhan talks to Sehun on stage, eyes shining. Luhan always had a soft spot for Sehun and so did Sehun for Luhan. They had an exclusive air about them that Jongin could not infiltrate so he just stayed by the sidelines and sulked. Except any bitterness has long gone faded and he watches with growing dread when the music suddenly reaches a swift crescendo and as if controlled by strings, Luhan begins to dance, limbs moving in a jerking fashion. The lights swallow him in a cloak of shadow; his movements become sharper, more rough, and Jongin hears Sehun's worried cries as the grotesque cracking of bones sound and Luhan's body starts to distort, bones swinging loosely through the air in time with the beats. Agonising screams add on to the rising tension and Jongin's mouth goes dry, fists trembling by his side. It’s inhumanly possible, he thinks as Luhan scales up the red ribbon tied to the banister above and before anyone can stop him, jumps, head snagging on the noose. His legs swing brokenly to and fro with a gentle fragility and grace, Sehun's sobbing forming a sad, mournful tune. The scene is almost sadistically beautiful. Jongin swallows, hard. The distance from the floor suddenly seems too close and he collapses onto the wood. As he does so, his hand grazes his pocket. His fingers curl around something round.

It’s a bottle of pills with the label ripped off.






Jongin awakens to the cold tiles of the marble floor, chest heaving. There's a distinct bruise forming on the side of his head, a bluish-purple explosion on his right temple. It hurts when he presses it but other times it serves as a painful reminder of what he has almost forgotten.

He reaches for his cigarette box. It's a necessity, he tells himself as he inhales greedily. A parasitic dependency: exchanging liquid soul for toxic presence.

Cultivating mushrooms in the darkest part of your soul
Creating new life while your own is rotting away







Jongin holes himself in his apartment for the next day, and the next, and the next. His cellphone rings continuously off the hook but he ignores it. He needs some peace and quiet. Solitude. Just like how it used to be.

He spends the hours in the bathtub nursing thick rings from his cigarette and filling the enclosed air with a sort of gloomy depression. The tinted window blocks out most of the sunlight, only dim glimmers from the mirror slicing across the water and providing a sliver of light in the darkness. He smokes and smokes, lights stick after stick and wonders why he still feels so empty when the smoke should have filled him up inside.

(Substitute liquid soul with a little smoke and no one would know the difference.)






Double vision is an understatement, he thinks hazily as booze dribbles down his chin. The checkered bathroom tiles are playing chess; he can’t see if there are five or ten bottles of beer on the floor because they keep multiplying by the seconds. Not that he minds if they multiply. He leans out of the bathtub, reaching for another full bottle of Maliibu. The tiles are swimming and the inside of his head feels like a washing machine but as his fingers curl around the cool glass, things dissolve into an awakening darkness.

The familiar scene of the poker room and its ominously grim atmosphere seeps into view when the smoke dissipates. It’s home, and yet he feels a little out of place, out of touch. The regulars are present, ghosting around the room elaborately dressed in rich silk and accessories that gleam in the light (although everything here is nothing but a sham). He can’t remember what day it is, hasn’t been able to for a while. He slides into his usual seat at the table. Dime, Penny and Dollar greet him with a nod and he returns the grim courtesy.

Jongin takes a sip of wine; it fizzles in his throat like firecrackers and ignite a blazing trail down his gut. He loosens his bow tie and with an expert sweep he gathers his cards in his hand.
His cards aren’t fantastic but he can work with them. Poker is a test of fate and bluff after all. They lay down their offences, prepare defences with smooth fingers and regard everything with an expressionless face. Their shiny masks reflect Jongin’s face back to him. They smile. Jongin frowns.

There’s a sudden shift in the lighting - the harsh overhead glare lightens and moves to illuminate a face in the crowd. Jongin’s mouth dries and he swallows.

And then he puts his cards down on the table and rises, ignoring the protests. The figure is elusive and seems to slip through even the tiniest of gaps between the bodies. Jongin pushes his way through, determination set in the firm line of his lip, blond hair falling a little over his eye.
In a way this game of tag is like poker, chasing down the Ace and calling his bluff.
Jongin ignores the bleeding shadows and instead runs after the figure, long strides gaining ground. The figure walks on, one step at a time, pace tantalisingly slow.

They round a corner to the corridor to the elevator. A sense of déjà vu crawls at the back of his throat, but he carries on, determined. The elevator doors open with a ping! and the figure walks in, coat swaying. Jongin lunges forth, slipping through the crack of the closing doors and his hand clamps down on the figure’s shoulder and turns him around.

The face is familiar. It’s Kyungsoo, yes, Kyungsoo, Jongin blinks, pale skin and big bulging eyes filling his mind. Kyungsoo smiles at him, lips curving into a half-smirk as he presses a button. The elevator door opens to a dark alleyway, granite floor gleaming with the sheen of rain. There’s a Porsche convertible waiting, shiny red coat flashy and obnoxious. Jongin smiles and turns to catch Kyungsoo’s eye but the man is already ditching his coat and sliding into the driver’s seat.

There ought to be something off about this, Jongin can’t help but think as the chilly night breeze sifts through his blond locks and chafes at his skin. The car is blazing down the cityscape, crashing past the gridlock of slow-going cars and scraping off their paint along with a little red. The traffic lights are flashing green; the city is alive yet streets abandoned, and in that moment the world is theirs, solely theirs. And yet with the Crappy Cartel song blasting out of quality speakers and Kyungsoo belting out high notes rather uncharacteristically, it feels too like home, too raw, almost like a bad memory he’d stashed so deep unearthed and relived again.

Even outside the outer space
I’ll still be lost in your sweet gaze


Jongin catches Kyungsoo’s eyes, and there’s a frisson between them, a long lost spark ignited. Kyungsoo leans over to kiss Jongin, lips sucking hard enough to bruise. It’s an exciting pain, one that sends a thrill of exhilaration pulsing through his veins. And then Kyungsoo turns and jerks at the steering wheel and the car goes flying off the winding hill.

There's a split second of cold realization as they tumble through air, tires screeching their death song as the car flips, combusts and explodes onto the road below. In those few seconds Jongin sits beside a burning Kyungsoo, fingers trembling around the steering wheel as he watches pale skin get devoured by hungry flames, turning to acrid ash.






Jongin awakens to a sea of white. By now he’s sure he’s on a roll, mind going against his self-imposed restrictions and re-opening old wounds, picking apart the stitches he’d painstakingly sewn to seal them shut. The door opens and the doctor enters, dark hair parted neatly to the side and surgical mask covering his lower face.

“Good morning, Jongin. How are you feeling today?” His voice is calm and soothing, and Jongin’s subconscious is lulled into a languid sense of security. His head throbs.

“I’m good. Can I go out?” He asks, and he’s not surprised his voice comes out a few notes higher.

The doctor laughs. The curve of his lips when he speaks entices Jongin.

Dr. Kyungsoo, his name tag reads, but Jongin has never called him anything but Doctor. His touch is icy cold as his hand rests on Jongin’s forehead, testing for temperature. It’s a regular everyday test but Jongin still flinches from his touch.

“Any hallucinations yesterday night? Lucid dreams or sleepwalking?”

Jongin remains silent. He’s not sure what is real and what is not.

The doctor nods, taking down notes on his notepad.

“I’ll tell the nurse to give you some candy and then I’ll come back after visiting your friends, okay?”

He tickles Jongin’s chin affectionately, touch searing and leaving him reeling as he leaves.

Hazy images like those of an old black and white film, of the doctor’s hand reaching towards him and pulling him close fill his mind, and Jongin blinks the memory away. The door is ajar.

Without a second thought he jumps up and leaves his prison behind.

He’s in the corridor, EXIT sign flickering ominously. There’s no time to waste, and Jongin runs in the opposite direction, bursting through doors and escaping through the tear in the barbed wire. He’s pretty sure he’s not supposed to find it this easy.

Jongin stumbles into a dark tunnel. The walls are grimy and slip away under his groping hands so he keeps them fisted by his sides and walks on through the tunnel. There’s a saying his father once told him about tunnels.

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel; it’ll guide you the right way home.

His father had died when he was twelve. He’d never believed the saying before when he was alive, and certainly not after, for by nature he was a pretty pessimistic kid. But now, there’s a tiny speck at the faraway end of the tunnel. It’s white - a little white light, just like his father had said.

Jongin keeps walking.

On closer look, he realises that it isn’t a light. It’s a figure, back facing him, shirt billowing in the wind. As Jongin approaches, the white gets duller and duller and starts to fade into the black walls of the tunnel. He frowns, footsteps growing more insistent, trying to reach the figure before he becomes one with the walls and traps him in.

He’s so close, but fate decides to be a bitch and he trips over his own feet, falling face-first onto the floor. There is no pain, no impact.

Everything goes black.






Jongin opens his eyes to sunlight filtering in through his bedside window. There’s a cool towel on his forehead, he realises as he sits up, wincing at his pounding headache. There’s a figure sleeping at the edge of his bed, head resting by his side and body slumped in a chair. The feeble morning light dusts a golden glow onto his pale skin, glinting off his jet black hair. Jongin slips out of bed as quietly as he can with a raging headache, trying not to wake Kyungsoo.

His reflection in the bathroom mirror is haunting: his skin is sallow with heavy eyebags and his bloodshot eyes match the striking colour of the blood trickling steadily down his nose. He cuts it off midtrack with the back of his hand, the smear of red across his tan skin tickling foggy memories of shiny red paint scratched off and innards burnt to a pile of acrid ash.

“How did you get in?” Jongin asks. Kyungsoo frowns at him, arms crossed and lips tightly pursed.

“You haven’t been at work for an entire week, you’re not answering my calls and you’re asking me how I got into your apartment?” Kyungsoo’s voice is soft but steely.

Jongin registers the time. According to Kyungsoo he’s been conked out for a week. It has never stretched so long before.

“I was sick.”

“And you couldn’t have called me to tell me? Instead I worried so much, knocking on your door before and after work every day wondering if something bad had happened – “

“Sorry.”

“You’re horrible, Jongin.”

A tense silence radiates in the room. Neither of them speaks.

After a while Kyungsoo sighs. It resonates with resignation.

“How are you feeling now?”

“Better.”

“You look terrible.”

“Best combination ever.”

A reluctant smile emerges on Kyungsoo’s face while Jongin shrugs.

“I’ll go get some ingredients from home to make dinner,” Kyungsoo says. Jongin nods, heading to the bathroom to wash up.

He makes sure to lock the door, then as quietly as possible, gathers the empty bottles of alcohol and stows them behind the sink. He sprays the floor with water, trying to wash away the stench of hard liquor and cigarette smoke.






Kyungsoo enters the dim apartment armed with grocery bags. His foot kicks something on his way in and he stoops to pick it up. It’s a bottle of prescription pills with small print on the back, and he squints at it, trying to make it out. It doesn’t look like regular medication. A flushing sound emanates from the bathroom and he quickly pockets the bottle and heads to the kitchen.

They have a simple dinner of vegetable porridge. There’s a subdued atmosphere around the dinner table; Kyungsoo tries unsuccessfully at idle conversation, thoughts fixed on the pills while Jongin picks at his food, struggling to stay awake. He’s awfully tired, eyes wired and dry.

A drop of red splashes on his spoon. He quickly covers the spot with porridge and swipes at his nose, feigning an itch.

(It’s getting harder to breathe.)






“Do you dream when you go to sleep?” Jongin asks suddenly, out of the blue.

“Sometimes. I don’t dream a lot,” Kyungsoo replies, a little startled by the gesture but pleased nonetheless. Perhaps he’s making progress.

“But when you do, what do you dream about?” Jongin presses on.

“Hmm... I usually don’t remember much of my dreams. But I know I dream about crazy things. Sometimes I dream about another world altogether.”

“Do you ever dream about… anyone?”

“Like, a person?”

Jongin nods.

“I used to dream about adventures with my schoolmates. But that was a long time ago. Now I rarely even dream anymore. Must be too old,” Kyungsoo laughs.

Jongin forces a smile.

“Yeah.”






When Kyungsoo leaves, Jongin sits by his window and fingers a cigarette. Nights are for deep thinking, soul searching, and with laboured breaths he thinks about his dreams. He uses the white stick to map out invisible lines on his bedspread.

His dreams had always revolved around the poker table. They’d been a nightly escape from work, a thrilling game based on chance and fate instead of solid numbers and fluctuating graphs. There had always been an elusive figure in his dreams, always luring him close but never close enough. It wasn’t until Kyungsoo came into his life that the figure had a face – Kyungsoo’s face.

He draws a strike down his sheets. A drop of blood falls beside it but he’s too absorbed to care.

It was then that his dreams started leaving the poker table and happening in all sorts of places, places he remembered but not quite. Memories, perhaps, dreams venturing into old memories, all taking the face of Kyungsoo. Kyungsoo had been the only constant in those dreams, sometimes so much that Jongin seemed to forget which memory he was in. There was the motorbike ride, Crappy Cartel car crash, Luhan, and the hospital doctor. His dreams are variables, ever changing, and Kyungsoo is a fixed constant who always leads him out of those troubled dreams.

The cigarette breaks into two, tobacco spilling out onto his bedsheet.

Why Kyungsoo? Is it because he’s the only who cares? Jongin takes a new cigarette from the box and lights it. The smoke fills the room with a deep artificial presence, hazy illusions twisting into distortion. Jongin inhales, exhales.

So many unanswered questions.






The convenience store’s pharmacy section is a minefield of prescription bottles and complicated labels but Kyungsoo grits his teeth and takes it upon himself to find the exact one. Jongin’s bottle in hand, he rakes the rack, eyes skimming the labels. He doesn’t know why he’s so bothered by it but he is. Jongin missing a week of work suddenly with no explanation scares him for he knows how much of a workaholic he is, disinterest aside. He doesn’t know why he tries so hard to get the man to open up to him. Pity? No, it runs deeper than that. Perhaps it is the look of loneliness disguised as cold indifference in Jongin’s eyes.

“May I help you?”

Kyungsoo turns to see the shop assistant peering over his shoulder. He gulps, for the man is impossibly tall and his toothy smile reminds him a little of Chucky’s.

“Um, sure. I’d like to ask, where can I find this exact prescription?” Kyungsoo shows him the bottle.

The shop assistant squints at it. His nametag reads Chanyeol, Kyungsoo notices, and stands by the side as Chanyeol rummages through dozens of prescriptions.

“Here, sleeping pills. You’ll need a prescription for this though-“

“Sleeping pills?”

Chanyeol grins. “Yes, heavy duty ones. These are by far the best, a little goes a long way. You gotta have a prescription for this if you want to buy it though. Otherwise if you overdose…”

Kyungsoo zones out to the rest of the man’s chatter. His hand trembles, and he mumbles a quick thank you as he rushes out of the shop.

The night is eerily still and quiet. Kyungsoo rushes to the bus stop, and to his dismay the next bus is only coming in 20 minutes. Worried, he whips out his cell phone and dials Jongin’s number.

“Hello.” Jongin’s voice is husky over the line.

“Jongin? Are you ok?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Why?”

“Nothing. Just wondering.” Kyungsoo looks at the pills in his hand. “What are you doing now?”

“Nothing much, just lying in bed,” Jongin drawls, reaching for the bottle of pills with the label ripped out. He empties it into liquor cup, the sound of pills hitting the bottom of the glass tinkling into the receiver. The rest of the space he fills with brandy and then takes a long swig.

“Ok, you wait there, I’m coming right back and we’ll watch a movie or something. Just, don’t do anything and wait, ok?”

“…Ok.” Jongin’s voice is lazy, sounding faraway. There’s a clattering sound as his phone slips out of his limp hand and bounces on the floor. Jongin blinks drowsily, taking in the ceiling of his bedroom. He can make out stars, blinking lights flickering on and off. The white flecks multiply, eating up the black. It reminds him of old television screens with bad connection. He feels a little sleepy, eyelids too heavy to stay open. A laugh gurgles from his lips, then dies. It’s extremely quiet.  A descending gloom looms over him.

“Stop crying,” he whispers to no one in particular as hot tears spill down the sides of his face.

A crackling sound comes from somewhere, calling his name, but it’s too far away and he’s simply too tired to move. He takes a shaky breath, then exhales.

His eyes fall shut.

(He does not dream.)






Jongin opens his eyes to the dark tunnel. In his hand is the figure’s white shirt, back still facing him. He’s made it; he's finally caught up to the light at the end of the tunnel. The figure turns around, and it’s Kyungsoo, all smiles and radiant. There’s a sense of enlightenment and freedom that Jongin feels with the wind ruffling through his hair, that maybe this is the place for him. This is the place where everything is provided for, where he can be peaceful and happy, as long as Kyungsoo is with him.

And then Kyungsoo reaches under his chin and tugs, and everything falls apart.

Jongin screams, letting go of the shirt as Kyungsoo’s face melts away, disintegrating into a pile of pure white ash. Standing before him is – himself, an exact replica of himself with his natural black hair and tan skin.

“Hello, Jongin. I see you finally found me.” His replica’s voice is smooth and slick, complete with a lazy smirk.

“Who-What are you?” Jongin says, trying not to falter. He’s seen enough monsters in his dreams to stand his ground, even though there’s something about his reflection that scares him more deeply than any monster ever had.

“I am you, and you are me. We were always meant to be.” He reaches out a hand, beckoning Jongin forward.

Jongin swallows. His feet move on their own accord, shuffling forward with leaden weight.

“I’m the part of you you were always trying to find,” his replica says convincingly, hand reaching out further. Jongin’s feet continue to shuffle forward.

“What about Kyungsoo?” he demands.

“Kyungsoo was just someone you imposed into our world. A face you strived to reveal, but it was never about him. You were always in search for me, so much that it was a craving, an obsession…”

His words resonate in Jongin’s mind, repeating over and over like a mantra. Jongin steps forward willingly this time, and with every step the darkness seems to intensify. But it is a calming darkness, one that soothes him and whispers in his ear that everything will be ok, and Jongin stares into his eyes and sees his soul in the memories that flash across like a death montage, memories he’s tried so hard to lock away but are so much a part of him that he can never escape.

Jongin takes the last step into his embrace. His lips are hot and silky on his neck.

"We don’t need anyone, as long as we have each other."

His kiss is feather-light yet bruising. Jongin closes his eyes and lets himself go.


There’s a light at the end of the tunnel
It’ll guide you the right way home







Kyungsoo stares at his cellphone, the monotonous beeping signalling the end of the line. A ball of dread clogs his throat and his hands are cold and clammy. Fifteen minutes till the bus arrives.

He stares at the bottle of pills in his hand.

Kyungsoo starts running.











Sillage: the scent that lingers in the air, the trail left in water, the impression made in space after something or someone has been and gone










a/n: had a lot of fun writing this as a remix of shanwens Knock On Wood for kpopficmix! Do check hers out too :) some references from my other short kaisoo fic 4.39am. hope you liked it, and oops I fell into the kaisoo stereotype again but don't worry I doubt I'll be writing anymore angst kaisoo character deaths in future:) <3
Tags: exo, ficmix, kai/jongin, kaisoo, sekaihan
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