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We are nowhere and it's now: Part 3

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PART 2

WINTER 2013


Sunyoung doesn't linger on in Taecyeon's mind the way Minjun did, not to say she wasn't still there in his thoughts but she's just not quite there. It's her openness with a total stranger and her worries and her fears that stick with Taecyeon, whereas with Minjun... it's everything; dark eyes, closed off, intriguing, his mismatched internal mirror image.

'Taecyeon-ah.' It's Jihyun with a hand on his shoulder. 'Sunyoung is here for her follow up.'

It's takes Taecyeon more than a few moments to gather himself, and when he looks up- Sunyoung's in front of him but she's not alone.

'I hope this is okay,' Sunyoung says quietly as she glances up the boy beside her, looking unsure. 'I couldn't get to the hospital without Changseob.'

Taecyeon nods, guiding them both through to the first free bed he can find. There's something about the way Sunyoung leans into Changseob that makes Taecyeon think she'll be alright.

--

'Hyungnim, you must be so relieved you don't have to deal with the interns this year,' Jackson says, collapsing down beside Taec in the breakroom.

'You'll learn in a few years time but there's no real escape from the interns,' Taecyeon says, chuckling. 'Any of them showing promise?'

'There's this one kid from Thailand called... Hmm, what was it?' Jackson bites his lip as he tries to recall. 'Oh, right. Get this. Kunpimook Bhuwakul. I mean it's a bit of a mouthful so I tend to just call him Bambam but man I hope that kid gets far as a doctor.'

Jackson takes the silence of Taecyeon mouthing out the name himself to continue. 'He's super young though, 24. I think it's because in Thailand they only have like six years of school, it's all compacted and-'

'Jackson stop talking out of your ass,' Minyoung scoffs, settling down on the other side of Taecyeon. 'The kid probably just started a year early.'

'What do you know about Thailand, Min?'

'Clearly more than you.'

'Is there anyone else?' Taecyeon asks.

'There's this one kid, also about the same age as Bambam called Yugyeom-'

'Oh no, you can't mock my knowledge of Thailand and then steal my rad nickname.' Jackson almost looks truly offended but then he breaks into a smile as Minyoung makes a fist and threatens to punch him. 'Please continue, Min. I'm hanging onto your every word.'

'How on earth did you make it this far?'

'I worked hard?'

'I mean without someone shooting you?'

Suddenly Jackson's in a sulk and the only way they can get him out of it (though Taecyeon's not quite sure when he got tied up in all of this) is by simultaneously stroking his hair with the promise of getting lunch some time soon, just the three of them.

--

Taecyeon's not really sure if the phone call he's about to make is a appropriate but it's nearly 2014 now and he's sure Minjun is no longer classified as his patient but he can't help seem to rid himself of his self doubt, it's a year on since they met at Namsan tower - two since they had met in Casualty but two rings later and it's gone straight to voicemail and Taecyeon realises that maybe Minjun doesn't want to talk to him.

Despite his silence and disinterest, his message does leave hints of expressed interest in leaving a message.

Taecyeon's silent for a second, lost in contemplation until words begin to carelessly fall out of his mouth. 'Hey Minjun-ah I-'

He records a total of five messages, deleting all but one, because his battery dies as he’s trying to delete his last mess of iwanttoseeyou.

It's only a few days later, the morning of his 33rd birthday when he's walking with his arms linked with Jackson and Minyoung (who look like his children, given his height) and he's about to run into Miu Miu when he sees a face through the glass windows and he feels his heart pang loudly, violently through his entire body.

He almost hesitates, faltering as he frees himself from Jackson's half assed grip - insecurities eat up at him - what if he just didn't want to talk to me? What if I just remind him of that time... but then he's so flooded with relief and oddly enough, adrenaline that he's rushing forward with such haste that he nearly crashes into Minjun.

'I'm so sorry I-' Taecyeon's babbling as he bounces back, but Minjun just laughs and it's something he's never heard before so he's almost... taken aback with how hearty and warm and happy it sounds.

'Nice to see you again, Taecyeon-ah.' Minjun seems to genuinely mean it, and Taecyeon can almost feel himself relaxing until he remembers his voice message.

'Oh- about that- I tried to call you,' Taecyeon says, the words stick to the roof of his mouth like peanut butter.

'How did that turn out for you?' Minjun asks, tugging his beanie down lower on his head. Taecyeon almost answers but then Minjun speaks again. 'My phone's broken, or well. It might not be. I got mugged a few weeks ago.'

'Are you- are you okay? Did they hurt you?'

'Nothing bad, a split lip and then Dasom-ie insisted on driving me to the hospital in case I had a concussion. I actually saw you when I was on my way for the scan.' Minjun barely seems phased, and it's almost like he's just going to walk away and leave.

'Do you. Do you want to have lunch together some time?' Taecyeon asks, almost panicking at the idea of Minjun leaving him.

Minjun mulls it over for a moment before he nods. 'How about tomorrow? Just call Dasom if something comes up though, she's the only one who seems to remember my landline number.'

'I'm off tomorrow so nothing should get in the way,' Taecyeon says, and it's like his veins are full of helium and he's about to float away at any second.

Jackson's at Taecyeon's side, Minyoung caught up on her phone a couple meters behind them. 'How's your arm healed up?'

Minjun doesn't really know how to respond, it's like he freezes.

'Oh, I'm sorry. I'm Jackson, I was an intern when you came to the hospital back then. Jihoon was your surgeon right? Can I see the scar?'

Taecyeon falls apart as he watches Minjun try gather himself, wishes he could have saved him from this moment but he's rolling up his sleeve and the scar is wide and thick and vicious.

'Is the plate still in?' Jackson asks, reaching out and gently examining Minjun's arm. 'It's healed really well, you must almost be fully functional. How are your fingers? How's your grip?'

stopstopstop

'It's like learning to write upside down in slow motion,' Minjun says quietly, pulling his sleeve down slowly.

‘It must have been rough, huh?’ Jackson asks, putting his hand on Minjun’s shoulder. Jackson’s calmer now though, almost as though he’s yielding towards Taecyeon’s protectiveness. ‘You were a pianist, right?’

Minjun nods as he slips his hands into his pockets. ‘Yeah I was, I mostly composed but sometimes I played with an orchestra.’

‘I know a really good physical therapist you should contact,’ Jackson says softly. ‘He helped me when I broke my leg in high school. I used to fence a lot and one day when I was having a practice round with my my friend… My foot slipped off the mat at a bad angle and… it was a career ending blow.’

Taecyeon watches as Jackson pieces himself together for Minjun to see.

‘My doctor was convinced I’d never be able to walk again.’ Jackson gets lost in that moment, tangled up in old memories that cling to him like spiderwebs, but then he’s free; never finishing his story, only walking on steadily past Minjun and up into Suzy’s café.

‘I’ll leave his contact details up at the till, just if you want,’ Jackson says, glancing over his shoulder with a small smile before he disappears.

Minjun’s staring at the ground when Taecyeon looks back, and it’s only on closer inspection that Taecyeon notices he’s smiling.

‘Your girlfriend back there looks like she needs help, I’ll see you tomorrow Ok Taecyeon,’ Minjun says, walking off too fast for Taecyeon to correct him.

Taecyeon looks back to see Minyoung; kneeling down on the sidewalk with her phone to her ear, shaking and holding back tears.

'What's the address, Hanbyul?' She asks, voice unsteady as Taecyeon gets closer. 'Hanbyul. Hanbyul, stay with me okay. Tell me the address.'

Taecyeon crouches beside her. 'Min, is everything okay?'

'Taecyeon, call Nichkhun,' she says, tears finally falling as panic takes over. 'Hanbyul's been in an accident, he was- he was on the way to his practice-'

Minyoung falls silent as she hears a siren flying past, a few streets down. She slips off her heels, flings them in Taecyeon's direction and runs off as fast as she can and as Taecyeon watches her disappear in the direction of the hospital he reaches for his phone.

Shaky fingers type in Nichkhun's number, even though it's not the one he's meant to call. Nichkhun doesn't do this anymore.

'Nichkhun.' And Taecyeon's almost surprised at how his voice doesn't modulate and break, maybe years of trauma cases have deadened external tells of nerves and fears. 'Nichkhun, Min's... Hanbyul was in an accident.'

Nichkhun doesn't respond right away and Taecyeon almost thinks he's hung up until he hears the sound of the radio switching on.

'Fei, are you on call right now?'

'Negative, are you calling in?'

'Fetch me on your way through, I'll get the details from Fire on location but there's been an MVA somewhere in Jongro.'

'Confirmed.'

Nichkhun turns down the dial on the radio and picks up the phone again. 'Taec, please tell me you've heard sirens.'

'Yeah, a few streets down. Sounded like fire. Overwhelmingly loud. Probably quite close to his practice do you know where-'

'I do. Listen, where's Min?' There's rustling as Nichkhun squeezes the phone to his ear.

'She's probably headed to the hospital-'

'Okay that's good, I'm going to need you to follow her and make sure Casualty is ready to bring the injured patients right in okay, Jia's arrived on scene already and from what I can hear it's priority one,' Nichkhun explains. 'I'll call you on the road if I hear anything more, but for now- you need to go make sure Min is alright okay.'

Nichkhun doesn't say goodbye, there's just a dead line and Taecyeon's hesitating because Jackson is still inside but none of them were on duty and there's just no time, so then he's running, Minyoung's shoes clutched to his chest as he hears another set of sirens go by.

--

Minyoung's hovering next to Jaebum, helping him fill in the details for Hanbyul's check in when Taecyeon runs in.

'Did you call an ambulance?' She asks, eyes wide; she's holding onto Jaebum's desk for support, looking like she's ready to crumble at any given moment.

'They should be here in the next two minutes, it's priority one,' Taecyeon says, guiding Minyoung away from behind Jaebum's desk. 'Fei called me on the way, there are four injured.'

Taecyeon sets Minyoung gently, on one of the benches generally occupied by crying wives and anxious husbands. 'Min, everything is going to be fine, okay?'

Taecyeon tucks her hair behind her ears, before he helps her slip her shoes back on. 'Nichkhun went with Fei, Hanbyul is in good hands okay? I just need you to breathe and calm down and once the patients have arrived I'd really appreciate it if you and Jia could fill in the patient report forms so we can tend to everyone as quickly as possible-'

'Where's Jackson?' Minyoung asks, sniffing back tears.

'He's probably still with Hyunyoung, but I'll tell Junho to call him over here okay?' Taecyeon stands up. 'I'm going to go get out of casual clothes okay. Have some water, calm down and remember to do what I asked you.'

Minyoung nods, sliding down the bench until she's pressed against the water dispenser and reaching for a foam cup and Taecyeon heads for the door.

--

The injuries are worse than Taecyeon could have prepared himself, but only one patient is rushed off to resus and Hanbyul's getting x-rays, an irregularity found when Taecyeon had checked his spine.

The driver who caused the accident had somehow escaped unscathed, sporting only minor whiplash and some muscle tenderness from the impact.

'What was it like back on scene?' Taecyeon asks Nichkhun, the worst is over and Jackson arrives just in time to treat the last patient.

'Hanbyul was lucky he was the driver,' Nichkhun says. 'The guy in the passenger seat got relatively severe burns when the airbag deployed and because of the way the cars collided Fire even had to break out the Jaws of Life.'

'Will he pull through?' Taecyeon asks, not having seen him himself.

'I think so,' Nichkhun says with a shrug. 'We should go check on Min while things are still quiet.'

--

'You know, when I asked you before... I wasn't asking about the scene,' Taecyeon says quietly as they make their way to the breakroom. 'I was asking about you.'

'I know, I just.' Nichkhun stops, putting a hand on Taecyeon's arm. 'I miss it.'

'Do you think you'll-'

'No, I won't,' Nichkhun says, and then he's walking on ahead.

--

'Hey Junho, I'm going to head home,' Taecyeon says with a yawn. Junho glances down at his watch and Taecyeon winces at the way his eyebrows shoot up. 'Is it that late?'

'It's better to actually just not know, hyung,' Junho says, yawning himself this time.

Taecyeon chuckles to himself, about to turn to leave until he remembers that he's carless. 'I'm going to sleep in the break room, wake me up when you're heading home.'

Junho nods. 'Sure thing, Taec.'

'Hey are you-' Taecyeon turns to look back at Junho. 'Are you okay now?'

'Why would I not be okay?'

'It's nothing, goodnight Junho.'

--

Junho's crouching down beside Taecyeon when he wakes up, hand on his shoulder and when Taecyeon mumbles good morning Junho nearly falls over.

'Is it seven already?' Taecyeon asks as he sits up, rubbing at his eyes.

'A little bit later, one of the MVA patients needed further attention and you know how much Seulong likes to have me on hand,' Junho says with a tired smile. 'There's some coffee on the table, but drink it slowly because it's hot. I wasn't expecting to wake you up so easily.'

'You're an actual angel, Lee Junho.' Taecyeon says, wiping away the tears that had welled up in his eyes during his excessive yawning. 'Also you know Seulong secretly loves you, if he wasn't married and completely in love with that hippie lady, you would have been his mistress a long time ago.'

'Taecyeon, go home and sleep.'

'Can't.' Taecyeon leans forward and picks up the coffee mug, it's warm enough to make his fingers throb but for some reason he doesn't feel the need to let go right away. 'I've got breakfast plans with Wooyoung and then I'm having lunch with Minjun-'

'Minjun as in the patient's emergency contact number you wanted Minjun?'

Taecyeon answers with silence, taking a sip of his coffee whilst he engages in a staring competition with the floor.

'Really? You wanted his number to ask him out?'

Taecyeon sets the mug down, palms of his hands red. 'It's not like that. I-'

Taecyeon can't find the words, he wishes he could just show Junho the feelings but he can't so he just tells him that it's a platonic meeting.

'Okay well date or not, I don't think you should be meeting up with anyone with blood on your face, go shower.'

--

'Change of plans, I need you to fetch me from the hospital.' Taecyeon tugs at the beanie Junho had found in lost and found and forced over his head as the wind whistles around him.

'Why are you at the hospital? Where's your car?' Wooyoung asks.

'It's at home, are you going to fetch me or not?'

'I'm in my patrol car.'

'That means nothing to me.'

'It should-'

'You can put me in the boot.'

'Hyung, that's kidnapping.'

'Is it still kidnapping if I'm willing?'

'I'll be there in five, but you're going to have to sit in the back with the kid I busted for shoplifting.'

--

The drive isn’t completely unpleasant, even if Wooyoung's too busy on the radio explaining to Bora why he has Taecyeon in the cage; the kid beside him is barely sixteen but he has the voice of an angel as he quietly sings along to a song Taecyeon doesn't recognise.

Bits and pieces of conversation waft through to the back, but Taecyeon mostly just listens to the way the kid sings about broken love and lost futures.

'Bora, this isn't within fire's jurisdiction-'

'No, he hasn't committed any crime.'

'This has nothing to do with traffic and safety- no I'm not harbouring a fugitive-'

'Bora, are you at the station? Should I come arrest you for misuse of an emergency news carrier-'

Wooyoung's radio's volume suddenly raises drastically, 'Wooyoung, how many possible sightings of fires could be being radioed in right now? It's snowing.'

'There could be a house fire, there could be a car ablaze, there could be-'

'I get it-'

'A car about to fall off a bridge, a dolphin-'

'Wooyoung, this is a private channel so how about you chill out.'

'Are dolphins the fire department’s concern?' Taecyeon asks, leaning forward.

'We're here,' Wooyoung says, pulling his key out of the ignition before he goes to open the door. The kid stuffs his earphones into his pockets as Wooyoung helps him out the car. 'You're going to be good, right? You won't run away?'

'As long as you don't call my parents, I'll do anything,' the boy says, closing the door behind himself as Wooyoung walks around to open Taecyeon's door.

'Are the back of your cars kiddy locked?' Taecyeon asks as the three of them walk inside.

'Of course,' Wooyoung says, looking back at Taecyeon and scoffing. 'Hey, Minjoo. This kid wants to do community service out of the goodness of his heart, isn't the youth of today just amazing?'

Wooyoung turns to the kid. 'Okay, Jimin. All you have to do is talk to this nice lady here and she'll help you out okay? You want to do this for at least a month, is that alright?'

Jimin nods.

'Okay, Taecyeon. Let's go eat whatever I have hidden at my desk.'

--

'What are you doing here so early?' Jia asks, collapsing down at the desk opposite Wooyoung's.

'You're not even on duty today, Meng.'

'Jinwoon was irritating the shit out of me last night so I slept here, whatever,' Jia says, visibly annoyed just by thinking about him.

'If you hate him so much why do you date him?' Wooyoung asks.

'You have no loyalty, Jang Wooyoung.' Taecyeon laughs.

'I date him because he's literally the most perfect human being on the planet- can we not have this conversation? I'm actually so hungry I'm contemplating being nice to Ahyeon to get her to feed me.'

'I heard that, Meng.'

'Sorry!' Jia calls, turning back to glare at Wooyoung. 'What did Seyoung pack for you today?'

While Wooyoung is busy ruffling through his bag, Jia turns her attention to Taecyeon. 'What's with the hat?'

Taecyeon had almost forgotten he was wearing it. 'Junho shoved it on my head before I left the hospital this morning.'

'Nichkhun said you weren't on duty, did you stay overnight because of that pile up?'

Taecyeon nods.

'Shit, man.' Jia shakes her head, putting her feet up on her desk. 'How's Min handling it all? Hanbyul tweaked his spine right? He's probably being a pain.'

'I think Min's probably taking him back home round about now, I think Kwon said he was going to go with to help out for a bit.'

'The entire accident was just crazy, Fire was on scene first but when I got there it was a mess,' Jia explains. 'Did you guys check Hanbyul for brain trauma? His entire windscreen was cracked.'

'We did check, he was just semi concussed. He's lucky he's quite thick headed.'

--

Jia drives Taecyeon through to Miu Miu a little bit before twelve, the Violent Femmes blasting loudly from her car's speakers. Minjun's waiting outside and before Taecyeon can step out the car, Jia wrestles the beanie off of his head and ruffles his hair.

'You looked like you were off to your first day of school,' she said, shoving the hat onto her own head before driving off. 'Bye Taec!'

'Sorry I'm a little late,' Taecyeon says as he trots up to Minjun, patting his hair down as best he can, but he’s almost certain it’s still sticking up at every possible angling judging by the way a smile pulls at Minjun’s lips.

'You're actually early.' Minjun chuckles as he heads inside, and Taecyeon bumbles in after in.

They sit in a booth in the back, but Taecyeon can still see Suzy and the way she's looking over and it makes his face feel hot.

'You okay?' Minjun asks, hands neatly crossed over each other.

'Oh I'm- I'm fine I just-' Taecyeon can't stop stuttering, but then Minjun pats his hand and that brief moment of Minjun's fingertips brushing against Taecyeon's knuckles helps even out his breath. 'I just know everyone here.'

'Is that a bad thing?' Minjun asks, pulling his phone out of his pocket and setting it on the table. 'I know everyone here too so-'

Taecyeon doesn't know how to explain the intrinsic possessiveness he has developed when it comes to Minjun, it's not about claiming Minjun as his own inasmuch as an ineffaceable want for shared infinities with him; Taecyeon wanted his seconds, his minutes and his hours and he wanted them to be linked with his own.

When Taecyeon doesn't answer, too lost in his thoughts; Minjun takes this opportunity to rephrase his earlier question. 'Are you okay after everything that happened yesterday? You're still in the same clothing.'

It's something that hadn't crossed Taecyeon's mind, another reason for his face to heat up. 'I spent the night at the hospital.'

He thinks about Minjun calling Minyoung his girlfriend again, shifts to try get rid of the discomfort that hangs over him. 'My friend's boyfriend was in an accident yesterday-'

'I heard about it on the local news,' Minjun interrupts. He leans forward and waves Hyunyoung over. 'Do you want anything to drink?'

Taecyeon shakes his head, but when Hyunyoung reaches the table his mouth is dry.

Minjun orders himself a hot chocolate and when Taecyeon quietly asks for a glass of water when he thinks Minjun isn't listening, he just hears him chuckle.

'Are you nervous?' He asks, steady hands opening a small sachet of brown sugar.

'Yes.' It's still the truth even if Taecyeon doesn't expand on why, doesn't explain how many times he'd thought about this moment and imagined countless ways in which the scene would go.

'I'm pretty nervous too.' He doesn't look it, but Taecyeon finds himself believing his words anyway as he watches Minjun stir his hot chocolate with a strange precision; anti clockwise for three seconds and the opposite direction for another two.

'How long have you been a doctor for?'

'About eight or nine years now?' Taecyeon replies, the words slip out of their own accord and he's caught up in thoughts of how so many years went by in the blink of an eye, in a heartbeat, in a breath.

'Did you always want to be a doctor?' Minjun asks, his sips as just as measured as his stirs; one gulp and Taecyeon's staring at the column of his throat.

'I guess somewhere along the way I just didn't really see myself doing anything else,' Taecyeon averts his gaze, stares at his fingernails and then the way the glass in his hand distorts his fingers. 'I wanted to be a surgeon.'

'What stopped you?'

'Maybe self doubt and shaky hands?' Taecyeon suggests, unsure. 'I didn't know that once you found your footing the shaking went away.'

Minjun nods, appearing satisfied with Taecyeon's answer. 'I started playing piano when I was a kid, inherited a piano from a relative I'd never even met. I guess my dream found me.''

They're quiet for a moment, Taecyeon takes a sip of his water to tries to pluck up the courage to ask Minjun something but he never finds the words.

what made you so unhappy kim minjun

'Can I ask you a personal question?' Minjun asks, leaning forward for a moment as he slips his one leg underneath himself; Taecyeon feels his breath on his cheek. Taecyeon nods. 'Are you gay?'

A whirlwind of answers fly through Taecyeon's mind before he's stuttering out, 'I- I just- I just like people.'

Minjun glances past him, like he sees something Taecyeon doesn't but then he's looking into his eyes , it almost feels intrusive but Taecyeon can't bring himself to look away.

'Anything you want to ask me?' Minjun asks, and it almost seems like a challenge but Taecyeon's not brave enough to take him up on it. 'Anything at all.'

why did you do it

'Where did you grow up?' Taecyeon asks, taking another sip of his water. Minjun almost looks disappointed.

what pushed you so far

'I grew up in Daegu.'

will you ever let me in

'Why did you move to Seongnam?'

Minjun chuckles to himself, seeming to somewhat relax. 'You really studied my file that time, didn't you?' When Taecyeon doesn't answer, only look away, Minjun continues. 'It's okay Taecyeon-ah.'

Taecyeon likes the way Minjun says his name, likes the way he almost over pronounces it.

'Seongnam is new, well... relatively new. I was in Anseong before before studying.'

'Where were you studying?'

'Dong Ah Broadcasting college?' Minjun takes the final gulp of his hot chocolate. 'I majored in broadcasting, but it got old. Wasn't really what I wanted to do with my life.'

'What did you want to do with your life?' Taecyeon asks, fingers absorbing the condensation on his glass.

'Live simply I guess,' Minjun says with a shrug. 'Or maybe just live vicariously through my music. I haven't really decided yet.'

'You're a concert pianist right?' Taecyeon asks.

'Mostly, but I also compose. So I guess I'm between spilling the feelings of others and losing myself in my own.' Minjun glances at his phone, tapping the power button and almost wincing at the time before he stands up. ‘It was nice seeing you Taecyeon-ah.’

And then he just leaves.

--

Taecyeon doesn’t see Minjun again until the 26th of December, and even then it’s by chance that they walk into each other. It’s dark and cold and Taecyeon decides to be brave. ‘Kim Minjun, what is your sexual orientation?’

Minjun’s barely taken aback and it unsettles Taecyeon, but then Minjun’s smiling and that’s even more unsettling. ‘I’m straight, but you’ve been the exception that’s crossed my mind nearly a thousand times.’ He’s attracted to how much Taecyeon needs him, they both know it.

They walk until they realise that neither of them have a destination, until the reality of winter hits them, until it’s too late to turn back and their faces are closer than Taecyeon could have ever fathomed.

Minjun's always been the braver one between the two of them, so it's hardly a surprise that he's the one that takes the chance, that diminishes the space between their lips until Taecyeon can feel his nose pressing against his cheek.

--

The spaces between the days where they see each other grow smaller as Taecyeon almost finds himself becoming more reliant on Minjun, there’s something about piecing him together that helps Taecyeon find himself.

As the New Year draws in, Taecyeon realises that there are still pieces missing, Minjun keeps the darkest corners of his heart invisible to Taecyeon.

--

SPRING 2014


It's only when it's as quiet as the city gets and Taecyeon's breath is warm against Minjun's skin that it's like he finally unlocks.

'Namsan tower was just… a repeat of Mapo bridge,' Minjun says and as Taecyeon looks up, pressing his hand gently against his wrist he continues, ‘A repeat that didn’t go as far because you caught me before I faded away.'

Taecyeon sits up, cautious not to completely break the physical bond as he watches the dim silhouette of Minjun's lips.

'It was just like the last time; I froze as the vertigo hit my limbs and lost my breath when I got bumped ready to use that as the momentum to throw me over.’

Taecyeon feels Minjun tense up against him, but then he speaks again, 'But you saved me.'

--

'Help her.'

It's the 31st of May, 2.43 AM and Sunyoung hangs brokenly in Changseob's arms; Taecyeon watches the soft rise and fall of her chest for a moment before Jihyun is rushing them through to resus.

'What happened?' Sunyoung's non-responsive; deep, jagged gashes from her throat to her feet. She's long past being making it, and they all know it but it doesn't stop Taecyeon from wanting to save her.

'I walked in and found her passed out on the floor, she broke the mirror and she- she...' Changseob can't stop shaking.

'Changseob, I need you to go give in Sunyoung's details at the nurses' station,' Taecyeon says, unable to glance up as he inserts a twenty gauge cannula into the pit of her elbow.

Changseob leaves hesitantly, guided by Kwon as Taecyeon inserts the second cannula into her left arm and Taecyeon loses all hope as he examines the extent of the damage; severed jugular, femoral artery on the left side hit, even her brachial artery.

Her blood pressure is systolic, she's in hypertensive crisis and it's almost like the colloid being pumped into her system and the bilateral pressure have no effect.

Taecyeon doesn't stop even when her pulse ceases, doesn't stop until Junho pulls him back and all he sees is the way Changseob doesn't look like he's breathing either, like he's frozen in time, caught in stasis.

Sunyoung is declared dead at 3.35 AM.

--

Everything feels heavy, but nothing is quite as heavy as the darkness that has settled inside of Taecyeon's heart. Taecyeon arrives home with the sun, collapsing on the couch like a deadweight.

It all replays through his head over and over again, killing him one cell at a time and Taecyeon just wants to scream when he thinks about Changseob, and the way his mind flies back to the way Sunyoung leaned into him. She was better, she was getting better.

He pulls a pillow over his face, arms like lead as he screams until his throat is hoarse and his lungs are empty and for a moment his hands linger and press down; there's a broken liberation to be found in the way it feels, the way he feels before his body fights back and the pillow finds its way halfway across the room, broken paperweights shattered in its wake.

Nichkhun's bedroom door creaks as he opens it, and stares at Taecyeon half asleep but looking mildly terrified. 'Taec, are you alright?'

And when Nichkhun settles down beside Taecyeon, head resting against his thigh Taecyeon realises he doesn't know what to say. His mind darts between Changseob and how Sunyoung's death would be classified as an unnatural one; the way Changseob would be a suspect, the way she leaned into him.

Sunyoung surrendered, opened up and bravely shared and now she was gone; what did this mean for Minjun who is so shut off?

'I lost a patient,' Taecyeon says finally, but Nichkhun is already asleep; fingers locked together with Taecyeon's are enough to get him to fall asleep.

--

Minjun presses his lips to the corner of Taecyeon's jaw when he sees him next, eyes bright and happy and it's almost enough to wash away the hold Sunyoung's memory has on Taecyeon, but not quite.

'Is everything alright?' Minjun asks, long fingers teasingly tugging at the zip of Taecyeon's jeans.

It’s late, late enough for Taecyeon to pass it off as exhaustion but his eyes give it all away; Minjun rests his head on Taecyeon’s chest, listening to his heartbeat. ‘What happened?’

‘I lost someone that shouldn’t have been lost in the first place,’ Taecyeon says softly.

--

Loss was the starting point for Minjun, losing his father and losing the ability to just stumble into happiness; these were the first steps that brought him to the climb up the barrier at Mapo bridge, insecurity was the final push.

--

Taecyeon decides he’s brave enough to return to Casualty, and he’s almost certain he sees Sunyoung’s mother talking to Junho but when he asks Junho shrugs.

‘Hanbyul’s having an I-don’t-need-my-wheelchair-anymore party on Saturday, think you’re going to come?’ Junho asks, but Taecyeon doesn’t answer; his eyes are trained on Changseob and Jackson’s hand on his elbow. ‘Oh, come on. You can show off your boyfriend.’

When Taecyeon gets closer, he sees the bloody bandage around Changseob’s knuckles and he’s about to ask if he’s okay but Changseob just drifts past him.

--

SUMMER 2014


Minjun had been threatening to cook Taecyeon dinner for months now, and yet it seemed that every time the offer had been extended by the grace of God something had come up, ingredients gone missing or an emergency call.

Taecyeon had been in fear of the day ever since he had seen Minjun’s spice rack, not quite ready for the heat of Daegu.

But today it’s different; Minjun invites him over around lunch time. Taecyeon almost feels guilty as he leaves the house, but Nichkhun’s sleeping soundly on the sofa, blissfully unaware.

As Taecyeon puts his keys in the ignition, crumbling concrete in his lungs but he shakes it off as he reverses. The distance between Taecyeon’s apartment and Minjun’s half-a-house is even shorter than usual, and as he pulls into Minjun’s driveway he notices the door ajar.

A million fears and doubts flash through his mind by the time he steps through the front door, but they all fade away when he sees Minjun. He’s got his phone pressed to his ear and a solemn expression on his face.

Taecyeon closes the door behind himself, turning to Minjun with a small wave. Minjun smiles in response.

‘Yes, I understand,’ Minjun says; Taecyeon notices that on closer inspection his eyes say otherwise but he waits until Minjun hangs up before he jumps to any conclusions.

‘Is everything okay?’ Taecyeon asks as Minjun sets his phone down on the lid of his piano.

‘Mmm, it was just work,’ Minjun replies; Taecyeon wants to ask more but he hesitates because it seems like Minjun doesn’t really want to talk about it so instead he picks up Minjun’s phone and sets it down beside him as he settles down on the piano bench.

‘I’ve been practicing,’ Taecyeon says, lifting the lid of the piano with shaky fingers; he plays a simplified version of Ode to Joy and Minjun claps before he presses his lips to the nape of Taecyeon’s neck.

‘Why don’t you give one of my songs a try?’ Minjun challenges, he’s been playful but he almost sounds upset as he says it. Taecyeon doesn’t accept the challenge but he goes turn around and pull Minjun close enough to make them share their breaths.

Their lips brush for a moment, but then Minjun pulls back, almost pulls into himself.

‘Don’t you like my compositions either.’ It’s not a question, but a statement laced with Minjun’s own insecurities; it’s almost like they’ve become the strings to his marionette, his existence and there’s so much strain, so much dragging him down that it’s like his strings would snap at any moment and leave him in a permanent state of falling.

‘I love your compositions,’ Taecyeon says hastily, ‘I’m just not sure I can do them justice with my untrained fingers.’

Minjun’s barely gone for a minute, and then he’s back and balancing sheet music in front of Taecyeon. ‘Try.’

Taecyeon pauses, uncertain but Minjun repeats himself, almost pleading. He moves to get up, but Minjun recoils so instead he turns back, and stares at the bars until they all blur together and they really just look like a call for help.

He plays the first three notes, the simplest ones; they’re just variations of each other. Taecyeon looks back over his shoulder, but Minjun is gone and the door’s wide open once more. He hadn’t even heard him leave.

Taecyeon gets up so fast that the piano bench falls to the ground with a loud bang, but he doesn’t care. He’s out the door, but Minjun is already long out of sight.

--

It’s that moment where you’re on the edge, where you don’t really want to hold on anymore. You lose your grip and then your fingers are slipping and there’s no one to grab your wrist, no one to support you and definitely no one there to catch you when you fall.

Taecyeon finds the little broken pieces of Minjun in his music, between the minors and augmented fifths and in the dischord he even finds pieces of himself.

Mismatched time signatures and he can feel the metal and he can taste Minjun’s tears before he gives up and lets the wind claim him.

There’s silence, three full bars of silence and then a weak, detached staccato begins and it sounds faintly like a heartbeat.

Taecyeon’s fingers shift up as he slowly reads through the notation and his fingers start to shake like never before because he can feel Minjun’s loneliness through the slur of bright majors that almost sound mocking; slowly more forceful sounding sharps pepper their way through until it’s a descending crescendo.

Taecyeon freezes, he’s almost certain he hears the door squeak as it opens and his heart flip flops in his chest as his mind readies him forever whatever he may face; his heart plummets to the earth’s core when he sees that it’s just Audrey.

Her tail is wagging slowly, but she seems just as lost without Minjun as Taecyeon is.

He settles down on his knees beside her, stroking her gently. ‘It’s going to be okay, everything’s going to be okay.’

Except it’s not, it’s getting late, and Taecyeon wonders if he should head home but he’s too scared to leave on the off chance that he misses Minjun.

He decides to hold off for another ten minutes, decides to feed Audrey and change the broken light bulb in the hallway and then his phone rings and he nearly falls off the ladder.

‘Hyung, where are you?’ It’s Junho.

‘I’m-’

‘You need to come to the hospital, Minjun’s here in Casualty-’ Taecyeon’s gone, out the door without a moment’s hesitation.

--

Taecyeon’s blind to almost everyone, deaf and mute too, until he spots Junho. ‘Junho, where is he?’

Junho seems startled by the panic in his voice, almost taken aback but he points to bed seven without being asked twice.

Taecyeon’s mouth tastes like iron, a consequence of biting down too hard on his tongue and as his fingers meet the heavy cotton of the curtain he says a little prayer; just that he’s still breathing, still able and and still Minjun; but as he draws the curtain back he sees Minjun perched in very similar way to the way he was when Taecyeon first met him sans one over bandaged arm.

‘Taecyeon-’

Minjun sounds fine, looks fine and the harder Taecyeon looks he can’t seem to find any of the symptoms of shock. Minjun’s pupils are dilated, but they half in size as soon as Taecyeon switches his flashlight on.

‘What did you do? Did you take something?’ And Minjun almost seems offended, but then he’s putting his hand on Taecyeon’s shoulder, hindering him from further examination.

‘Taecyeon-ah, I’m fine,’ Minjun says softly. ‘I just came here to look for you. You weren’t at your apartment and-’

‘I was at your… Why didn’t you just come back… Why are you-’ Taecyeon’s flooded by a sense of relief, but the feeling is quickly replaced with frustration. ‘You asshat, don’t ever do that again!’

And Minjun nods, and stands up like he’s about to leave but instead he locks his fingers with Taecyeon’s, presses his cheek against Taecyeon’s chest. ‘I just needed a breather.’

Taecyeon’s knuckle gently guides Minjun’s chin upwards, until they are eye to eye and Taecyeon’s forehead is pressed against his. Somehow they’ve made it safely back to one another, somehow Minjun’s found his feet again and Taecyeon presses his lips against his.

They kiss until they’re breathless, until Minjun’s lips are swollen; but then Taecyeon laughs. ‘Do you really not want to cook for me?’

--

They’re by no means perfect, but they’re perfectly imperfect together and that’s enough for the both of them to get by in the infinite future. Some days the world is overwhelming, and sometimes they’re just getting by but in the end they find solace in each other.

(Taecyeon does, however, find that Minjun uses ketchup as tomato paste and motions that he’s forever the chef in the relationship. Minjun agrees to these terms as this was his “plan all along.”)
* * *