Summary: What could one week change in a casual friendship between a woman and a man? Sehun–the friend who unabashedly flirts and banters with you in the guise of friendship. Junmyeon–the friend who tried to woo you once, but now was just content in maintaining a casual friendship with you. When Sehun proposed a one-week relationship with you, you found yourself unearthing feelings for him you never thought were there. When Junmyeon ended up in a one-week study program abroad with you, you found yourself realizing that he just might be the guy you have been searching all your life.
But all you have is one week.
One week to figure out who is “the one”.
You looked to your right, and the bright face of Junmyeon came greeting you, his smile shining through the dusk of six o'clock.
You smiled at him and nodded, but nonetheless continued walking to the direction of the train station, not minding his car slowly matching your even pace.
"May I walk you home?"
You looked at him again, and this time, laughed loudly more than you wanted to. Not only because of the fact that he can't exactly "walk" you home, as you're pretty sure you're going to ride his car.
But also because it has been years since somebody offered to walk you home.
"I've got a long way ahead of me, my friend."
Junmyeon's face scrunched at the label given to him. At least she sees me as a friend. Gotta start somewhere.
The sound of his voice was enough to persuade you, but looking at him again--his lips, now slightly pouting at you, as if he will be sulking all evening if you reject his request--was the point that completely changed your mind.
And when you opened the door to his car, the smile that was growing on your face grew even wider.
"Can you advise me on something?"
You gave a glance at Junmyeon's side profile, his left hand on the steering wheel, and his right, comfortably deposited on his thigh. You may have probably been staring for too long, that he looked at you momentarily as if to recheck if you have heard him.
"Okay," you say rather gently.
You looked at him again, noticing the toothy smile he unconsciously gave at the sound of your voice.
"What would you do if the person you have liked for years have not reciprocated nor noticed your affection for him?"
You don't know why it happened, but at Junmyeon's question, Sehun's face quickly flashed before your mind. You shook your head a little in an effort to physically erase his image from your head, but Junmyeon was too quick to notice the gesture.
"Do you think something's might be wrong with me? Do you think I ought to change something about me?" Junmyeon added.
And at that, Sehun popped in your mind again, your own brain cells intent in making you believe that the question begs for a quick roundtrip ride about you and Sehun's history.
Which only existed per your account.
"Once upon a time," you begin, which made Junmyeon glance at you interestingly, and to be honest, quite confusingly, "I liked a guy."
A guy, Junmyeon repeated in his mind. She has once liked a guy. That's normal right? He debates in his head.
"Or I thought, I liked him.
"I thought I liked him as more than a friend."
And with that, Sehun's face popped in Junmyeon's head. He tried to think of all the other guy friends you have in university, but then realized that no one else comes close to the position Sehun held in your life.
But no, she might have other friends, Junmyeon rationalizes, even though he knows that he might be a little in denial with this.
"One day, it just dawned on me that I liked him," you start again. "From that little seed of affection, a flower fully bloomed in my chest, hoping that maybe--just maybe--one day, he will see me, not as a friend, but as a woman.
"From there, I started dressing up for him. I bought summer dresses with sweetheart necklines, because he said I looked good on them. I wore my hair down because he mentioned in more than one occasion that I looked more natural with it than with my ponytail--" you paused, as Junmyeon gave an almost inaudible "ponytails are great", to which you gave him a grin. "So, I basically did everything I thought would make him like me.
"For months, I've tried to secretly make him like me. There are times when I think I looked super good, but then he would be cold and very indifferent, as if he didn’t compliment me last week for the floral dress I was wearing, though my legs are begging to be in jeans." You bit your lip, remembering that time Sehun didn't even return your "hi" your light blue wrap dress swaying with the wind, as he deposited himself nonchalantly on a chair and texted furiously on his phone.
"I often make excuses him--maybe he's just tired. Maybe he's just going through some personal things that's why he's not noticing me lately.
"I also made an effort to pay extra attention to other girls he hang out with. And that's when the self-blames happened--I started thinking that maybe, just maybe, something is wrong with me, you know?" You say, completely oblivious to Junmyeon's jaw tightening with the words you just said. "Maybe I just have to change myself--my demeanor, my behaviour, even the way I speak--for him to like me.
"But then one day, I was supposed to meet him for a rather romantic--or I guess, it was at least romantic for me--" you laughed, remembering the disillusion you were in a few years ago. "I was dressed to the nines--I even bought new underwear for that occasion because I really felt like it was the right time for him to realize that the girl he has been looking for--it's me, and I'm just right there in front of him, ready for him to take.
"But when he showed up to our favorite restaurant, with his arms interlinked with a girl whose dress was definitely way fancier than mine, and wearing her hear in a low messy updo--someone whose style was completely different from the one I thought he liked--I felt cold. I felt like freezing water has been poured over me, and I was able to see things clearly for the first time."
You looked at Junmyeon, who by then, has stopped in the car over the side of the road and whose eyes were already on yours. "It was then when I realized that nothing's wrong with him.
"Most especially, nothing's wrong with me.
"The truth is that, he just doesn’t like me that way."
Junmyeon didn't know how to feel. He felt foolish at asking the question. But he likewise felt somehow relieved to hear your realization that you are fine--perfect in his eyes, even--and nothing's wrong with you.
"I was just unlucky that I am not his type."
"Is that why you rejected my advances before?"
"Because you simply did not like me?"
You turned to Junmyeon. Fortunately, a sly smile was playing on his lips, making you realize that he was having his fun on this.
You sighed, staring at the long winding road before you.
"They say that couples who have broken up need at least three months to recover before they enter into yet another relationship. It's infamously called as the '3-month rule,'" you explained.
"Otherwise, a rebound relationship is bound to happen, which will hurt the recently broken person more, putting his in more misery than he was before."
At this, you looked at him and said, "When you tirelessly invited me to coffee dates for a month, you and Geuhui have just been broken up for two months, Junmyeon."
Junmyeon's head turned so fast you thought he had whiplash, his mouth slightly opened, as if you just landed a bomb on him.
"I did not reject you.
"I just wanted to wait the three-month period.
"I just wanted to protect you from a likely painful rebound relationship with me."
"Minseok hyung? It's late--why are you still here?" Sehun called out to the guy staring at the empty parking lot and scratching his head in confusion.
"Well, I called Junmyeon to pick me up here at six o'clock," he explains, "But I don’t know where the hell he went to. I told him to fetch me at exactly six because I was supposed to meet someone."
Sehun laughed at Minseok's misery. He pulled his phone out from his trusty leather satchel, deciding to wait with his hyung for Junmyeon.
"Ah the motherfucker."
Sehun turned to Minseok, but stopped before he could even begin to walk to his hyung's direction.
Because there, glowing in Minseok's phone, is the answer why Junmyeon couldn't be here tonight.
"He picked up Y/N, instead of picking me up!" Minseok exclaimed, staring at the photo posted by Suho in his IG stories, with him and Y/N singing to Chelsea Cutler and Noah Kahan's "Crazier".
But Sehun has become oblivious to all of these already, his ears glowing red in jealousy, his steps quick to hatch his most awaited plan.
One that he has been thinking every night. One that he has kept and suppressed all these years.
It was midnight, and you are just preparing to go to bed when the doorbell to your unit rang.
Could it be Junmyeon? You ask yourself, thinking you might have left something at his car.
But when you opened the door it was Sehun.
Speaking of the devil, you couldn’t help thinking, as you remembered tonight's conversation with Junmyeon.
You just didn’t realize just how close that conversation could be related so much to tonight's events when he said his next words.
Or no--maybe overturn is the more appropriate term.
Because what he said next completely overturned what you thought was an absolutely plain friendship between the two of you.
"Date me for one week."
You were too stunned to speak and didn't reply.
And so he repeated the words.
"Date me for one week, Y/N. Date me for a week and I will walk you home every goddamn night."
EXO Reaction: You Sit in his Lap While He's Working Because You Want his Attention
Suho: He chuckles in amusement at how you plop down on top of his knee, softly wrapping his arm around your waist and allowing you to settle into his shoulder.
"You really need so much attention, huh?"
Xiumin: It surprises him a bit at first, but he doesn't mind it at all. Especially since now you're in a position where he can grab your butt whenever he likes. You're more interesting to him, actually...these lyrics can probably wait.
"And what can I do for you, hm?"
Lay: He laughs and rolls his eyes, blushing at the abruptness of this. Not that he won't welcome it, though. He likes to hold you while he's working. It helps him focus and keeps him grounded so he doesn't feel as stressed.
"You startled me..."
Baekhyun: He gives you a gentle smile and pulls you into himself, touching his nose to yours. He loves it when you sit in his lap, no matter what he's busy with at the time. If he could hold you like this forever, he would.
"Hi, baby...has anyone ever told you how cute you are?"
Chanyeol: When he feels you relax against him, he can't help but smile. You're too cute when you want his attention, but he's also got to focus on his work. He tries to balance the two things by letting you settle down on him while he continues his writing.
"I'll be done soon, baby. 10 more minutes, then I'm all yours."
Kyungsoo: Even though you've done this to him several times before, it never fails to make him flustered. You always do it when his focus is most vital, too, like when he's trying to rehearse lines for a new film or record a new song. He's frustrated with you, yes, but he can't bring himself to get mad at you. He loves you too much.
"Let me guess. You need a kiss."
Kai: We all know how our shy little bear is. Naturally, he's gonna start laughing and will cover his face, overwhelmed by the sudden cascade of physical affection coming from you. Collecting himself after a few minutes of giggling about you whining his name and wiggling around on his knee, he'll pull you into a tight hug.
"How is it possible for a human being to be so cute?!"
Sehun: Initially, he startles, almost dropping you onto the floor. He was so focused on his work that he didn't hear you come in, but after realizing it's you, he breathes a sigh of relief, immediately feeling bad for almost shoving you. Gently, he'll pull you into his lap and press his lips to yours, his work not mattering to him anymore.
"Writing lyrics is boring, anyway. Let's go get some bubble tea."
Warnings/notes: a little bit of an angsty beginning, patriarchal pressure in the workplace, and the ‘who did this to you’ trope is in play.
Prompt: “Talk to me.” #64 of 100 Writing Prompts
Word count: 2059
Barrelling down the hallway to your office, you curled your hands into tight fists, hoping the pain you were inflicting on yourself would ease the burn in your eyes. You didn’t want to cry at all, but if you had to let the emotions out, you wanted it to be done behind closed doors. It was bad enough your humiliation had been witnessed by three others in the boardroom. Word would travel fast, and you wanted to have a hold over yourself before it got to whispered conversations wherever you walked.
You had almost made it to your office, your eyes stupidly scanning around the corner as you turned towards it to make sure you didn’t bang into anyone. Perhaps you should have. Then you wouldn’t have had that split moment when your gaze connected with his dark brown eyes, his smirk fading fast.
No. No, no, no.
Out of everyone in this building, the last person you wanted to face in the heat of the moment was Oh Sehun. Quickening your pace, you didn’t dare check to see whether he remained in the spot or not, reaching out for the handle to your office and yanking it open.
Before you could spin around and lock the door behind you, it opened again, this time the new arrival clicking it shut with a switch of the lock. You spun towards the corner of your room. “Out.”
“You know I’m not going to do that, Y/N,” Sehun told you, his footsteps slow but steady. “What happened?”
You scoffed, tilting your head in hopes the tears threatening to spill down your cheeks would run back into the ducts and away from humiliating you further. God, you were having the worst luck of your life today.
“Talk to me,” he commanded gently, and you blinked, never imagining that Sehun could speak to you with such reverence. Sehun was your natural rival within these walls, the only other person in this department who matched your skills and tenacity. Whilst you weren’t like most office enemies who slung dirt and tried to upscale the other, you didn’t have a fond relationship with the man either. He was terse with most people in the department, though his smirks were the only sign of his desire to irk you personally. You allowed him to rub you the wrong way often, but you were never one to create a scene, and he knew that. In response to his smirks, you were known to roll your eyes dramatically, a weird sense of camaraderie when you stopped to think about it.
You frankly didn’t want to put any weight into that gentle tone of his right now.
“Y/N, I need to know who did this to you,” he continued, and you paused to frown. Why did Sehun sound so worked up?
Turning slowly, you were surprised by how close the man was to you. His eyes examined you from head to toe as you numbly looked at him, his breath expelling from him momentarily. Then he squared his jaw again, looking as if he would break a molar if he wasn’t careful.
It confused you immensely.
“Who made you cry?”
“I didn’t cry,” you shot back, folding your arms across your chest as armour. You weren’t going into battle with Sehun, but rather, you didn’t want him to look too deeply at your vulnerable state.
Sehun clamped his eyes shut. “I’m going to only ask one more time, Y/N.”
“Why? What will you do if I don’t answer?” you asked, somewhat teasingly. He didn’t take the bait, though his eyes sprung open then, his dark gaze full of certain promises you didn’t want to dig too deep into the meaning of.
Why was Sehun looking like he would fight for your honour in a duel? Your jaw dropped ajar when that realisation hit.
“I’m okay,” you whispered, turning your focus to your desk, and shakily walked towards it. Sehun stepped in your way, and you came up short, your wide gaze being ensnared by his.
“You’re not. No one in this office would ever bring you to your knees. You’re formidable and make people jump into action before you’ve finished giving out orders.”
“You make me sound so badass,” you murmured and stilled entirely when his warm hand suddenly cupped your cheek.
He smiled genuinely. “You are. So, for you to be crying—”
“I’m not crying!” you cut in, pulling your head back a little when his thumb swept under your eye. He held up the moisture he’d captured on the tip of it, and you blanched, diving to your desk for a tissue. Damn him, you were crying.
“Please tell me,” he breathed, his hand reaching out for you again.
Although it was entirely unfamiliar to be touched like this by Sehun, you welcomed the comfort. Emboldened by your acceptance, the tall man stepped closer, his thumb gently rubbing circular patterns on the side of your jaw.
“The head of sales claimed I made an error on the report submitted for the new client we signed up. Considering none of my work is around numbers, but the legal proceedings, I fought back on the topic.”
“And both our boss and Luke Devons are patriarchal pieces of shit,” you responded with a forced smile. Sighing, you attempted to divert your gaze from his, but Sehun tilted your chin back to face him. “They insinuated that I was being too emotional about the accusation because I’m female. Which is bullshit because if Kyungsoo went in there and said the same thing as I did, they wouldn’t be dismissing him and thinking the error was because he’s male and in touch with his emotions. I didn’t give them a shred of room to think poorly of me. I stuck to the facts, but it felt like I was being tag teamed. The error isn’t even mine, to begin with.”
Sehun stared at you for an immeasurable moment, jaw working. And then he nodded once. “Let’s go.”
“What? No, Sehun, it’s done. I don’t want to go back into that hell hole of an office today. I just want to gather myself up, accept the blame is on my shoulders and move on. There’s no point fighting this.”
He didn’t respond, his hand slipping down your arm to grab yours. And then he spun, tugging you towards the door. “Sehun!”
“We’re going to HR.”
“Why?!” you hissed exasperatedly, and he threw the door open, storming down the hallway. Well, if you had wanted to avoid the office gossip before, there was no way you would now. Everyone looked up from their desks as Sehun pulled you along behind him, striding confidently into battle.
At some point along the journey, you stopped resisting. At some point, you no longer looked wildly towards the other staff you passed. Instead, you looked up at the strong side-profile of the man ready to battle the flames in your wake. And after a squeeze to his hand, you let it go, marching along beside him.
“Anya, do you have those files I sent over earlier?” Sehun asked as soon as you both stepped into the HR department, your curious glance at Anya being met back with a frown as she nodded blindly at Sehun.
“I’ve been reviewing them. What of it?”
Sehun looked at you when he started talking. “I noticed when I was going over the documents we submitted for the O’Neal project that there was an error from sales. So, I went to sort the problem when I overheard Karen broach this topic with Luke. He said they could dismiss it as their fault and avoid the wrath of the head boss. I didn’t know how Luke planned to do that, but I figured it would be smart business to get a testimony from Karen along with my own to give to HR.”
“Really?” you whispered, and Sehun tersely nodded. You turned to Anya. “I’d like to lay a complaint on Luke Devons then.”
Once you had finished giving over the information to HR, and Anya ensured you they had more than enough grounds to submit an inquiry around business ethics, you stepped out of the office feeling like the weight was gone from your shoulders. Glancing at Sehun, you smiled brightly.
“You’re a scary bastard, you know that? I don’t ever want to cross paths with you.”
“I do,” he replied earnestly, pulling you towards the stairwell doors. When you were both enclosed on the landing, Sehun stepped closer, reaching for your cheek again. Your skin tingled, and you wondered what you could do each day just to get this man to caress you like this.
“You do?” you questioned, remembering his words moments ago.
Sehun nodded. “I want to cross you in all the right ways, Y/N.”
“No one should diminish your character like that,” he told you, shaking his head, anger flaring his nostrils. “If I didn’t give a shit about my career, I’d find Luke and—”
“You’re very protective,” you cut in with a giggle, biting your bottom lip. “No one messes with your people, huh?”
“You’re mine?” he asked innocently, attempting to keep the smirk from his lips. He failed, and you rolled your eyes instinctively when you saw his lips curl up. Sehun stepped even closer, his chest rising and falling against yours. “I’d like that.”
He nodded. “I’ve wanted you for a very long time. But I admire you far too much to make you the talk of the office gossip mill.”
“We did see what happened when May started sleeping with Trent,” you agreed loosely, your hands running up his torso and stopping to link behind his neck. “I have to say it’s probably a bit too late for us now. I mean, you did drag me out holding my hand.”
“Did I? A shame I didn’t throw you over my shoulder instead. That would have really got them going,” he replied, his lips almost on top of yours. “I like you a lot, Y/N. Every time you roll your eyes at me, it feels like foreplay.”
“That’s an interesting take.” Your mouth spoke against his, Sehun groaning. He could have captured your lips by now, taken them hostage in a hot embrace. Flicking your eyes to his, you realised he was waiting for you to make the first move, respecting you enough to seek permission.
Pressing your mouth into his firmly, you gasped when he kissed you greedily, his arms winding around your waist and securing you against him. The kiss deepened as your mind ran off with you, imagining Sehun in many new lights and positions. You almost laughed at the sudden change in demeanour. An hour ago, you were in tears and distraught that Sehun had caught you at your weakest. Now, he held you, lifted you up so your strength was acknowledged and rewarded by his kisses. You went from feeling unlucky to surprised by how quickly karma would play out.
Pulling away, you smoothed down his dress shirt you had wrinkled by fisting it and then smiled. “I don’t care what the gossip mill has to say about us.”
“There’s an us now?” he teased, brushing your hair away from your face. “All I had to do was give in to my caveman need to protect you to get you to admit you want me? Damn. I should have figured a way to figuratively beat my chest and roar in—”
“I’m no damsel in distress, Oh Sehun,” you reproached, and he pecked your swollen lips before grinning at you.
“No. You’re one hell of a formidable woman.”
“Who can fight her own battles,” you continued, and Sehun narrowed his gaze reluctantly. You smiled as you reached to link your hands again. “Who was thankful to have you at her side when she needed you.”
“Well, when you put it that way,” he said, puffing his chest, and you laughed whilst shaking your head.
Stepping towards the door, you opened it, tugging Sehun back out with you, uncaring when you crossed paths with other co-workers, their eyes dropping to your linked hands.
If Oh Sehun could be there at your worst, you had no problem with announcing that he’d be at your side for everything else.
“Have you ever been so in love, you’d catch yourself smiling like a schoolgirl with just the thought of him alone?” you ask your friends as you throw your phone on the couch. The conversation you just had with your boyfriend left you grinning like a fool.
“You’re obsessed with Sehun, we get it. Damn, quit throwing it on our faces.” one of your friends semi-shout, your shenanigans about the perfect guy you’re so lucky to call boyfriend is getting too repetitive.
You throw them an even bigger smile, “I am, I have it so bad.”
How to even begin when it comes to Sehun. His looks? Straight out of the magazine. His personality? Even better, probably the only person that could—and are willing to—deal with your over the top neediness.
Upon meeting Sehun the first time, you had no idea that you’d eventually turn into this cheesy girlfriend that clings to her man you used to roll your eyes at. Sehun just making it so hard for you not to. Time not spent with him is filled with the urge to call him just so you know he’s there.
From the outside looking in, him being the calm and always put together type of guy is the total opposite of your loud and messy personality. But what they don’t get to see is the sweet, caring—sometimes even bratty—Sehun that you love so much.
“What would I do tonight? I don’t like sleeping without you.” you mumble to his back. Height difference left your face snuggled in between his shoulder blades. Hands around his waist tightens with the thought of sleeping alone.
Sehun chuckles, enjoying how needy you become every time the two of you will spent a few days apart because of work. “You’ll be fine, babe. It’s just a few days, I’ll have you snuggled to sleep in no time.” Sehun taps your arms around his abdomen to let you know the coffee he’s making is ready and he’s going to move.
Whining and shaking your head, you try to match Sehun’s movement towards the couch, not willing to let go just yet.
“I’ll spill this coffee everywhere if you keep doing that, let go for a sec, babe.” Sehun taps your arms once again.
Finally letting go, you quickly snuggle yourself on the couch next to him. Making people think you might have an allergic reaction if you were to be separated from your boyfriend for more than a few minutes.
“Should I just quit my job and apply to one that doesn’t require me fly out every now and then so I could be here all the time?” you jokingly ask, both knowing you’d never do that cause you love your job so much—except for the flying out part.
“I don’t know what else to tell you, babe, I’ve begged you to quit your job and come work for me for how long now?” Sehun leans down to plant a quick kiss to your head. “But you always so stubborn.”
You roll your eyes, “Duh, obviously cause I would never get anything done at work if you’re somewhere in 100 feet radius. I’d jump you every few hours, you know.”
“I wouldn’t mind, honestly.” Sehun grins.
You scoff, playfully hitting his torso only to be distracted by the hard muscles underneath his t-shirt. “Tell that to your mean secretary. She hates me, you know.”
“No, she didn’t. She’s such a nice person.” Sehun’s hand find yours, intertwining the fingers.
“Can’t blame her tho, If I were her I’d hate the girl fucking the guy I have the fattest crush on too.” you shrug nonchalantly.
“You’re crazy, you know?” Sehun shakes his head. Setting his coffee down before pulling you even more into his embrace.
“It’s okay, I understand. How can someone be around you all day for years and not have a crush on you? Impossible, I mean, look at you?” you ask sounding a bit offended that someone could look this close to perfection. Thanking the heavens everyday he’s yours.
“I think you’ve ruined other people for me. I don’t think I’ll survive the day without being complimented at least ten times a day now.” Sehun throws his head back on the couch.
“Great, exactly how I want it to be! You’re stuck with me!” you stretch your neck to plant a kiss on his favorite spot right underneath his ear. Making him release the deepest sounding laugh that spreads warmth inside of you.
You can’t sleep. Exactly how you predicted.
Tossing and turning for hours, the hotel’s queen sized bed felt extra spacious with no one to share it with. Pulling up your phone, you check the time.
3:11 A.M. You need to be up in a few hours for the morning meetings you have all scheduled.
Contemplating hard whether or not you should call your boyfriend just to hear his voice this late.
Knowing you’ll never get the sleep you need to function properly the next day without hearing Sehun’s voice, you dial his number.
It took a few beeps before Sehun’s raspy laughs reach your ears, needing no explanation as to why you’re calling him at 3 in the morning “Can’t sleep, huh, babe?”
“Sorry,” you somewhat plea, then huff when you realize how sleepy Sehun sounds, “but you’re sleeping just fine I guess.”
“I’ve cracked the code, you know. I worked out real hard after dinner so by the time I’m done showering I have no energy left and just passed out.” you can hear Sehun shifts to a more comfortable position on the bed.
“That’s so smart. Could’ve told me though, I just spent hours tossing and turning, looking at old pictures we took on that ski trip.” you confess, though it didn’t actually bother you that you just spent hours looking at cute pictures of you and Sehun while mentally planning for your next getaway together.
Sehun’s raspy laughs sounding more like a lullaby as it reaches your ear. “Let’s go skiing, I wanna go ski. You still owe me a snowboarding lesson.” Sehun suggests excitedly while reminding you about the stupid bet you lose a few months ago.
“Babe, it’s July. I’d rather us fly to Hawaii, wouldn’t it be fun, no?”
“I’m sure there’s an all year round resort somewhere in Europe.” he states not willing to give up the ski shenanigans, pulling a groan from you.
Sehun whines, showing the side of him other people rarely see. The bratty Sehun deep within slowly making an appearance. “But, babeee.. Imagine how fun it will be. Europe is small, we can even go to Nice if you’re so keen on going to the beach.”
Shaking your head, you laugh at Sehun’s attempt to get what he wants. Being born as the youngest have grant him a lot of things throughout his life. “You’re impossible.”
“I’ll schedule the flight, resort and everything, all you gotta do is just sit tight and be pretty next to me.” Sehun excitedly promise, sounding even more cute with all the excitement in his voice.
“You mean, you’ll get your people to get the flight and everything?” you tease him, fully knowing he would never do it himself with all the works he’s got on his plate.
You can hear Sehun clacking his tongue slightly annoyed, “Same thing, babe, same thing. So, put it in your calendar, a week of European getaway with the love of your life.” Sehun grins at the end of his sentence.
“Yes, sir!” you give in easily. You always give in when it comes to Sehun, be it him persuading you until you give in or you and your very low resistance when it comes to Sehun. Nevertheless, it’s like he’s got you under a spell or something. “Is this what it feels like when you're in love? Cause I really really like the way it feels.” you stupidly grin.
The call goes silent for a few seconds, making you pull away to make sure it wasn’t the connection.
Hearing no response you continue, “Am I obsessed with you? Cause I do my best no to want you, this much.” you take a deep, deep breath. “But I do, I do all the time.”
“I really really wish I could kiss you right now.” Sehun breathes, the tone of his voice spreading warmth from your chest all the way to your fingertips.
“Great, now I for sure wouldn’t be able to sleep.” you groan loudly, the image of Sehun kissing you tenderly flashes. Hating the fact that the kiss would have to wait for another day.
“You started it!” Sehun fires back. “Who’s mentioning how good it feels to be in love with me and how you want me even though you tried no to? Not me!”
“Umm, you told me to clear my schedule for a getaway with the love of my life!” you snap right back, emphasizing the last few words for dramatic effect. If Sehun were here, you absolutely sure he would be rolling his eyes in annoyance.
The both of you started cackling, laughing at how ridiculous the last few minutes was.
“Go to sleep, babe. You have an 8 AM, no?” Sehun finally say when the both of you finish laughing.
“I do.” you yawn, the haziness finally seeps in. “Thank you.”
“Anytime, babe. I’ll see you Thursday.” he promises before the two of you exchange I love yous and end the call.
Feeling somewhat of a relief, you set your alarm before putting your phone away. Going back to stare at the ceiling of the hotel room before slowly drifting off to sleep.
Part of The Fault in Light collaboration with @yeoldontknow
Story parts: Act I | Act II | Act III (Final)
Themes: astronaut!au; space!au; space exploration!au; themes of soulmate relationships; heavy angst; themes of abandonment; separation; romance; smut; love across age, space, and time; college sweethearts
Pairing: Sehun x Fem!Reader
Rating: PG13 - NC-17 for mild swearing and implied/semi-explicit sexual themes
WC: ~25k (yikes!)
Oh Sehun has always been an optimist – for someone whose work so firmly plants him on the ground, he lives everyday with the stars in his eyes. He makes it easy to love him, to get swept up in his determination – he brings you along in his effortless self-assurance, and he has done so ever since the day he declared you college sweethearts.
Love and legacy, however, never guarantee the future. When he’s presented with an opportunity he can’t resist, one he’s dreamt of for as long as he’s known who he is, you both know there is only one path forward. He will not be deterred, even when distinguished professor and sole Mars mission survivor Loey Park just as fervently tries to make Sehun reconsider.
Sehun is yours, and you are his. But Mars is a demanding, punishing mistress, and you can only hope that she will allow Sehun’s return.
Reading Note: Tumblr doesn’t allow more than 10 images per post, so some of the scene headers (date/location) do not have setting images before them. Take care to note the timeline if you can!
A/N: Thank you @changshapatrol for the new poster! It’s finally here! I can’t believe it. Happy early birthday (and belated 10y Exoversary) to Oh Sehun :) this is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever written and I love this so much -- please drop a comment if you can to let me know if you enjoyed this! And this goes out to bee and planet anon, as well as all of you who sent in kind reminders to let me know you were looking forward to this as much as I was. Thank you for your patience. And of course a billion thanks to @yeoldontknow, whose wonderful presence this weekend helped me finish this behemoth of an admittedly unedited story.
(Tagging people who were interested or betaread earlier versions: @rosetvler @changshapatrol @ako-gamboge @baek-byunies -- thank you endlessly!)
Early 2019, Southern California
Your eyes trace up the length of his arm. Alabaster, smooth skin covers obvious muscle, and you marvel at the human form. Sehun is doing nothing but cutting a slab of pork belly into more manageable pieces, and yet you cannot help but see him as statuesque and elegant in spite of the way he tentatively, but carefully, holds his knife.
“What would Kyungsoo say?” Tongue clicking, you pretend to scold him the way one of your college friends would. The older man is here for a personal visit, with family in tow, but both you and Sehun know he’s driven all the way across Los Angeles in search of an elusive dessert to bring back for dinner. Culinary connoisseur, Kyungsoo has hovered over (under, or rather, near) Sehun’s shoulder many a gathering, urging his junior to pinch the blade with a gentle reminder. Sehun’s stubbornness always wins out, though, as he prefers the handle grip over blade. (‘I’m not going fast,’ Sehun always plaintively chides. ‘And I’m not cutting a lot!’)
“Kyungsoo isn’t here, is he?” Sehun lifts up the knife, fingers tightening around the handle with thumb firmly behind the bolster. You watch in rapt fascination as tendons glide over bone in the back of his hand; you’ve always loved his hands, finding them equal parts capable of holding your heart and perfect for many other ministrations.
“What would Kyungsoo’s partner say?” The banter comes as a challenge. You have him trapped there, when you pointedly tilt your wineglass towards the dining room where she’s busy laying out the side dishes she brought from the Do house. She, too, is an excellent cook, but your threat is empty — unlike her spouse, she is less particular about Sehun’s knife skills.
The snicks against beautiful butcher block stop abruptly. You look up, surprised by the sudden silence.
“I missed this,” Sehun says, looking you directly in the eye with his face set to an expressionless mask.
Your eyebrows wrinkle together in amusement. “What, being roasted by the love of your life instead of hanging out in zero-gravity?”
The lack of response speaks volumes, but the sheepish turn away says even more. It’s cute when he hides his face like this, out of cringeworthy secondhand embarrassment or shy exposure and the like. He’s always been cute, though you wonder if you’re biased by a near-decade of being enamored with his very essence. Over the years you’ve both grown and changed, physically and mentally, horizontally and vertically, but Sehun’s appeal has been constant throughout each change.
He allows your words to marinate in the kitchen air, mingling with the aroma of freshly minced green onions and ginger, as well as the latest box of kimchi his mother so lovingly made for you (though she certainly made too much, most of which still rests in the kimchi fridge in the garage. That, too, was a gift from his family, as if to preempt the impromptu vegetable drop-offs). Soft gasps of lipped food containers reach your ears from the dining table as Kyungsoo’s wife opens their lids. The input becomes too much, all the data flooding your senses.
It’s not like anything is different, not like there’s any stimuli you really need to respond to. You’ve watched Sehun cook in the kitchen countless of times, and vice versa. You’ve had the Dos over for dinner at least once a month when Kyungsoo swings by the Valley for business. There’s nothing new in the kitchen, no new appliances with new sounds to register, no fancy renovations for Shaker cabinetry or white tile backsplashes. There is only Sehun, and routine, and the comfort of intimacy that extends beyond skin.
“I’m going to miss this,” he says now, his voice dropping to a near-whisper. “All of this.”
It doesn’t take much to understand that ‘this’ means everything you’re taking in, and more. Stolen moments of domesticity and simple bliss will be few and far between in a matter of months when Sehun is whisked back to Florida for the longest mission of his life. (A niggling, irritating voice in the depths of your mind worries that ‘longest’ might actually measure out to ‘forever,’ but you push those thoughts down when you notice Sehun’s expression tugging downward into forlorn anticipation).
You jump down from your stool, quickly ducking around the kitchen counter to close the distance between your souls.
“Hey,” you wedge yourself between his body and the counter as Sehun sets down the knife. His now-free hand smooths down the plane of your back, both for his emotional comfort and yours, but also to make sure your shirt doesn’t billow out onto the raw meat. “Don’t you worry about that,” you reach up to grasp his soft cheeks in your palms. “You’ll get these moments back, in spades, and then some. Maybe I’ll have finally found a contractor I like to get the kitchen redone, and then we’ll have a new…” Your voice falters as you stare into the depths of his eyes. “…a new… all of this.”
He nods against your fingertips, peach fuzz delighting your nerve endings. You can feel a bit of his daily stubble growing back, and it’s the sensation of touch that shoots a pang of misery into your stomach when you realize that you, too, will miss the blessing of proximity.
Sehun stiffens against you, straightening his spine and adopting a look of determination across his gentle features. “O-kay!” He cheers with the energy of a little boy, voice coming out choppy and thrown to sound cute. He knows what his weapons are, and he knows every one of your soft spots. Bolstered by your encouragement, he shoos you out from beneath his frame and resumes his slicing with reinvigorated motivation. A part of you is happy to see his mood restored, but another part of you keenly feels the loss of warmth as you’re ushered back to the opposite end of the kitchen counter.
“One giant pot of kimchi-jjim, coming right up!” He pauses, then glances up at the clock. “I mean, in an hour!”
“And that’s why we brought side dishes,” Kyungsoo’s wife laughs as she enters the kitchen, though the beautiful sound fades when she notices the strange, spacey look on your face. “I don’t think Kyungsoo will be happy to wait that long to eat after driving back from Porto’s.”
You compose yourself, giving her a slight smile to thank her for jarring you from your reverie. “I told him to start earlier!,” you whine, throwing an arm around her shoulder and wandering towards the awaiting dinner table. Behind you, Sehun sticks his tongue out at your back — you don’t turn to look, but you expect he’s doing something of the sort, and your guess is precisely on the mark.
Early November 2020, Los Angeles, California
You wake in your bed, goosebumps traveling up your arms before you grapple blindly for your robe. A strangled gasp forces its way from your throat, and you reach for your face — it feels like your fingers move in slow motion, and it takes you a length of time for you to register the moisture at your fingertips as tears. Nausea waves over you, fueled by a strange feeling you can only describe as a horrific manifestation of loss and longing.
It’s not the most pleasant to be served dreams that are not fiction, but rather memory. The dark creature of worry that now lives inside you stirs awake, sending a surge of panic up your spine and making your mind for you. Something is going to go wrong, the creature whispers, you need to be there.
Where? You ask it, but you know the answer already. Your fingers tap at a saved number on your phone you’ve never called; ‘emergencies only’ they’d told you when you noted the digits.
Somehow, your body takes over while your mind whirls through every possible worst-case scenario. When your brain finally decides to release you from your prison of anxiety and communicates with your body once more, you look down to see your hands poised over a laptop keyboard, the screen opened to an emailed flight confirmation for a one-way ticket to Houston.
Mid-November 2020, Mars, near Arsia Mons
Sehun leans over the tiny brushed-metal basin that functions as his bathroom sink, observing himself in the semi-useful (read: useless) mirror that adorns the wall above it. It’s not a fantastic mirror, made of reflective, polished metal, rather than glass, but he appreciates the safety feature nonetheless.
Lean, dry fingers tug against the skin on his face; one cheek, then the other. He’s mildly grateful he got laser hair removal right before entering pre-conditioning, as it’s saved his chin from developing too much of a space scruff. He turns one cheek towards the mirror — it’s sunken in; he’s gaunt, despite his best efforts to maintain his caloric regimen — something about Mars burns more of his energy than he realizes.
He’d taken inventory as soon as the messages came in from Mission Control in early October; he had approximately 60 days of emergency food left after his primary rations would dry up by the end of October — this had been planned, as the SpaceX shipment of new equipment and supplies had been initially slated to land by mid-October at latest. With the change in trajectory, however, he would need to take the next two-odd weeks traveling to the new rendezvous point in Gale Crater, where he would set up base using the container from SpaceX as his new home. But to traverse the planet, he would need to cut down his rations by a considerable amount — the rover could only fit so much within it, and that was with leaving many samples behind in his lab.
It was anything but ideal. The equipment chamber that would land on Mars was intended only for storage and science, not living. It would be approximately the same size as his current abode, but filled with nearly three times as much stuff — therefore less space for him to live. In the least, it had been prepared for suitless human occupation as a secondary research facility, and secondly as an precaution were he to be trapped in the research bunker during a dust storm with no time to reach his regular home base. If Sehun added that knowledge to the reality that he’d have to live in his RV-equivalent research vessel (the Tank, as he now preferred to call it), he had to surmise that he, in fact, was fucked.
He turns his other cheek, furrowing his brows and glaring at the scowling face in the mirror. Sehun doesn’t like what he sees; who he sees. Whoever’s looking back at him is haggard, exhausted, and only a shell of the sprightly young spaceman who landed after a six-month ISS stint not three years before. But he doesn’t feel like the man in the mirror; he’s scared, yes, but this is his life’s work — his dream — his everything, except for you. The image in the mirror doesn’t match how he feels inside, and the sight shocks him every time he gazes into his own eyes. Sighing, he turns away from the mirror and slides the impossibly small door that leads to the bathroom as he exits it. Even he’s not sure how he’s survived this far with an economy-class airplane bathroom, but life will find a way, he supposes.
Dim, yellowed lights glow from the corners of his base, following him through his path towards the main living space of his room — not that there’s anything accurate about the words “living” or “space” anymore. Boxes upon boxes are strewn apart the room, with a few atop his semi-comfortable cot. Some are labeled, some are not; the labeled ones will come with him in the Tank and the rest will be left behind to erode, much like Chanyeol’s old base somewhere on the other side of the planet.
It’s weird to be saying goodbye to his Martian home already, and even weirder because his mission isn’t over.
He pauses. He has to survive the next month first -- maybe the mission isn’t the highest immediate priority, but it’s hard for him to feel that way even in the face of danger.
Narrowed eyes gloss over lead-insulated duffel bags stuffed with hastily processed hard drives and triple-layered plastic bags filled with Martian terrain. The hard drives are less important than the specimens; the majority of what’s on the hard drives has been sent back to Earth in summaries.
Sehun’s eyes scan to his cot next, where he observes piles of high-calorie, vacuum-sealed biscuits and the remainder of his meals, emergency and planned. He might have to tap into the emergency supply if the trip over to Gale Crater results in a few detours, but he’s semi-confident that the route he and NASA have planned will be straightforward.
There’s a small part of him that’s excited for the adventure ahead, even though he knows his real mission is on pause, and that this excursion is not one for science. But he knows no other man has had the opportunity (or otherwise, morbid motivation) to traverse nearly 6000 kilometers on another planet. Sure, he won’t be spending most of that time gawking at Mars, but at the rather slow rate of 17km/h he expects to take navigating the Martian terrain, he knows he’ll have much to look at.
“16 hours a day seems a bit optimistic,” Mission Control texts him, but Sehun manages to win over his superiors by mentioning that his original plan was to chunk each day into segments perforated by only two REM cycles. He’s not sure if they’re worried about a sleep-deprived astronaut destroying a billion-dollar investment by mistake, or if they’re worried about his health (probably both, he surmises), but Mission Control eventually comes around to his proposal of a 16-hour workday, driving nearly 300km/daily for the next three weeks.
Perhaps it is optimistic. But that’s what Sehun is, because he’s too scared to find out what happens if he loses hope.
Mid-November 2020, Los Angeles, California
“I’m going to Houston,” you announce to a room of shocked, pained faces — but everyone quickly settles their expressions into those of understanding. “Jongin, can you housesit?”
His voice is tentative. “I can,” he says. “But are you sure you want to be there? We can help support you if you’re in L.A.” Next to Jongin, Junmyeon and his wife nod enthusiastically in agreement; his wife strokes the hair of their daughter in her lap, as their daughter hides away from the apparent stress on your face.
“I know that,” you almost snap, but stop yourself right before and make sure to correct your tone. “But who’s going to support Sehun?” Your voice cracks against your will and you reach blindly for an ottoman to sit on. Jongin quickly reaches out to push one closer to you. He notices as you glance at Sehun’s jacket, still draped over the couch, though now arranged differently as you’ve been picking it up for comfort all week.
You can’t support him from here. You can text him, of course, but you can’t sit idly by a console, waiting for confirmation of either triumph or failure, waiting for any sort of news from NASA or Sehun himself. No — you need to know what NASA knows in real-time, if only so you can stay strong for Sehun through the security of being armed with knowledge.
You’re not sure, though, that the security will will really feel like it. What happens if Control bursts to life with alerts and lights ablaze, engineers fretting over a complication? What will you do when bad news comes to you faster than the information can be screened through your NASA liaison, when it comes raw and real and unscrubbed? Even Sehun can’t relay emergencies directly to you quickly enough; his data is only as good as what’s on-the-ground in front of him and what can make it all the way back to Earth. But NASA, with their birds-eye view, can figure out what’s happening at once, sans 8-minute delay, and for that reason alone you know you need to be at Mission Control.
When the offer was extended to you days ago, you hadn’t hesitated to say yes. It was clear to you that sitting at home would be impossible until you knew Sehun was safe, and the opportunity to understand Sehun’s predicament directly was one you couldn’t miss.
Your shoulders now fall as you tuck your arms into yourself and try to make yourself smaller. “I know —” your voice catches in your throat. “I know that it’ll be stressful. I know that… that I might learn the worst right as it happens. But I have to be there to understand what’s happening to him. I have to be able to talk to him about anything without having to wait for NASA to explain his situation to me.”
The living room falls silent. The others all know what you mean. Kyungsoo’s partner gets up from her seat, placing her hands on your shoulders for a quick squeeze. They all understand that you have to go to Houston prepared to learn that Sehun might not have made it; that it may all come to an end while you are away from their care and their love.
“Call us as soon as you need anything — no matter what, no matter when, okay?”
You nod, clutching your arms to yourself tighter, and lean into your friends’ embrace.
Mid-to-Late November 2020, Mars, near Arsia Mons
Loading equipment and rations into the Tank is no small feat, what with Mars’ unfortunate gravity and for the arduous, annoying effort of sanitizing in the airlock every ‘trip to the car.’ It’s the worst grocery run Sehun has ever been on, and he’s been to bulk goods warehouses with you — so it’s saying a lot.
It takes him two days to get everything loaded and all remaining local data shipped off into the stars towards Earth, and it’s all rather anticlimactic in the end. There’s no real good-bye, no sign-off as he closes the airlock to his base from the outside for the last time. At best he gives it a bit of a salute before clambering up into the body of the Tank and pressurizing the cabin.
He pulls off most of the protective suit; he only plans to wear it when he’s sitting in the cockpit under the windows where the Sun will inevitably get to him. But when he bunkers down in the back, two thick layers of protective walling deep, he has to make himself as compact as possible.
He’s MacGyvered the fabric of his old cot across the top of a stack of his equipment; everything is secured into place with shelves bolted to the walls of his space RV-Jeep—thing so the Tank can maneuver around roadblocks or traverse steep inclines. It takes a bit of adjustment to get used to, but Sehun figures out the best way to clamber up to the faintly claustrophobic sleeping alcove he’s made for himself (stepping on the hard drive duffel bags seems to work better than the slippery boxes of MREs), and he straps himself in every night.
The crawlspace isn’t much at all; only 24 inches in height, and only just long enough to fit his whole body, but it beats trying to sleep out in the driver’s seat, which doesn’t recline for safety and spatial reasons.
He closes his eyes to thoughts of you every night, clutching that small square of fabric as his overtaxed, overstressed brain forces him to bed.
November 29, 2020, Houston, Texas
The first thing you notice about Mission Control are the tense jaws worn by every engineer you meet. It’s not a good sign, but you are somewhat comforted by the fact that everyone looks just as worried as you do. They get it, you think, they understand the gravity of this all.
It’s not true, of course, because while they are just as invested in Sehun’s survival as you are, they are not nearly as invested in Sehun. To them, he is an important asset and colleague, perhaps the hope of space exploration at best. To you, he is your presently missing half. You know you can pick up the pieces of your shattered self eventually should he not return (you shudder at the mere thought), but it will be a long and arduous process that you’d rather not endure.
Here you’re able to type directly into a terminal that sends messages to Sehun; the delay is more or less the same (being at Mission Control saves you a few milliseconds; transmitting his messages from Mission Control to your home computer is the trivial part of their journey), but something about being one fewer jumps away from him helps. A little. Not much, but it’s better than nothing. The fact that nobody offers you platitudes or empty comfort is also strangely nice — it feels like you’re all suffering together, your muscles all clenched in the same, tightly-wound anxiety.
The problem with Mission Control is that this static, buzzing energy of tension permeates every corridor, every glance, every single action taken in the cavernous building. You know the feeling too well, and while its familiarity brings some satisfaction, you are all-too-aware that it’s the energy of a tipping point. At home, you are shielded from this livewire energy and separated from it by physical distance and a computer screen. But here you are a part of it, and your own nails-bitten-to-the-quick worry adds to the the aggregate concern. You and everyone else in the room have the same wishes: you hope that the invisible threshold is never crossed, that no more news pushes past that tipping point.
Hope, you learn, is a fickle mistress. She prevents you from moving on, instead holding you to her breast and whispering small comforts until you are pulled into the purgatory of not knowing, but not ignoring. Sehun is slated to reach Gale Crater in two days; the shipment of supplies is in orbit and everything seems to be on track. It seems too good to be true, but you find yourself wishing and praying to the cosmos that you might be able to hold onto your hope. You struggle with your relationship with hope nonetheless; knowing that the more you have the more any bad news will hurt. But day after day (for a full two weeks) of no change in Mission Control’s frenetic, constant energy allows you to cultivate more hope — it’s dangerous, you know, but you think you might go insane without it.
When the energy changes in a split second, you correct yourself — you think you were destined to lose your mind and sense of reality by holding onto false hopes.
The room changes so quickly you don’t have time to understand what’s happening — there are sharp beeps and barks and loud shouts and flashing screens, flickering lights, mathematicians and physicists scrambling to their notepads and MacBooks to figure something out. But what, what? You cry out internally, because your scream in Mission Control would have gone unheard above the din anyway, but you cry out to anyone in the universe who will listen nonetheless. You need answers, answers that the engineers are still trying to suss out, and the wait is torture. At the edges of the room you clutch at the sides of your chair, trying to make sense of the calculations and images flashing on the many screens lining the far wall. Your ears try to block out the flurry of activity, but the roaring is too intense to screen out.
A firm hand lands on your shoulder, and you recognize its owner as one of Sehun’s mission facilitators; the director is elsewhere, presumably leaning over a physicist’s screen trying to understand why the room is in a sudden panic.
“It’s a lot of input in here,” the man says, voice gruff. His thick mustache barely moves as he speaks. “Come with me.”
Your feet carry you, though every step makes you feel as though you are made of lead.
He leads you to a relatively quiet conference room; you can still hear the shouts and beeps and keyboard clacks from the other side of the door, but it is thankfully muffled. The man strides across the room to fetch you a cup of hot water.
“Please,” your voice comes out weaker than you’ve ever heard it. “What’s happened?”
The facilitator meets your eyes, but his gaze is downcast. “We don’t know for sure yet,” he pauses. “But it looks like a large storm is approaching the proposed drop site — we’d been monitoring it, but something changed its path. It’s speeding towards Gale Crater now, instead of missing it by a few hundred kilometers, and we’ll lose contact with both Sehun and the shipment in the drop zone.”
A lump conquers your throat and renders you speechless. Your eyes try to form tears, but you freeze in your seat instead. The facilitator takes one of your blinks as a question: what does that mean for Sehun?
“It’s not looking too great,” he admits. “It’s not the worst storm we’ve noticed on the planet, so assuming nothing else goes wrong, the rocket should be able to land using completely local instructions, without contact with Mission Control.”
“But?” Your voice cracks.
“But it’s a big risk. There are no human pilots on board; there’s nobody to manually ensure that it lands correctly. If it weren’t a matter of rations or death, we might have been able to try it, but we need to make sure the food isn’t blown up upon impact. We won’t be able to tell where exactly it lands if it goes even minorly off-course, and we won’t be able to let Sehun know, either.”
You open your mouth to ask another question, but the door slams open as a harried-looking engineer calls for the facilitator. She nods at you, waving at you both frantically. “You’re going to want to see this,” she says breathlessly, and then the doorway is clear. The facilitator is hot on her heels with you not far behind, and you rush back to the main control room.
“Sir, we tried telling him that we can still attempt the drop-off; the math might work out, this storm doesn’t seem to have speeds high enough to really interfere with the thrusters—”
A woman who looks infinitely more severe than the facilitator who comforted you snatches a clipboard from the claws of a nearby scientist. She flips through the equations and predictions hand-scrawled onto the sheets, knowing the chicken scratch was supported by complex mathematical models run through one of the more powerful supercomputers. Her lips purse, and she hands the clipboard back.
The scientist points at the row of screens, where the upper right quadrant of screens has been programmed to blow up the size of Sehun’s messages.
<<< OFFICIAL CORRESPONDENCE; OH, SEHUN: DO NOT DROP SHIPMENT OUT OF ORBIT
“What the hell is he thinking?” The female director mutters under her breath, echoing the same sentiment that thunders internally between your ears. She quickly strides over to a terminal, its resident engineer immediately swiveling away in their chair to give the director space.
>>> OFFICIAL CORRESPONDENCE: NOT AN OPTION. ESTIMATED DURATION OF STORM 6 WEEKS; RATION CALCULATIONS BASED ON LAST REPORT INSUFFICIENT
November 29, 2020 Mars, near Gale Crater
Sehun glances behind him, then mutters a few disdainful curses into the void. “Like I don’t know that,” he glowers, his mind running through his ration inventory for the thousandth time that day.
Food, unfortunately, has been almost all he’s been thinking about for weeks. Sure, he portioned out his remaining spare rations rather well, but the food he’s eating is not nearly enough to sustain a man as tall as him for long — even with how thin he’s become. But he grits his teeth, forcing himself to think about something else as he estimates the chances of death for either of his options.
Attempt to land the shipment in a dust storm and it’s likely the food will be lost to the dunes forever, imploded upon impact. Keep it in the (lack of) atmosphere in orbit for a bit longer, and gamble for another chance at a viable landing — and eat one half less cracker a day, hoping that an opening appears. He chews at his inner lip, the action reminding him of gum and providing temporary relief from his hunger.
<<< OFFICIAL CORRESPONDENCE; OH, SEHUN: RATIONS ADJUSTED; ENOUGH TO WAIT OUT STORM
It’s a lie, of course. Approximately a month and a half of normally-portioned rations lay abandoned in his old basecamp; he could only bring enough for three weeks with him on the rover. He’d been stretching those portions as thinly as he could, but operating the vehicle and dealing with the stress of navigating uneven terrain prevented Sehun from eating only crumbs each day. He was somewhat grateful that the physical strain of donning his safety suit and brushing electromagnetic dust from the rover treads forced him to indulge in at least a few bites of food daily — meager bites were better than nothing. But every bite he took was another bite he wouldn’t have in the future. He pushes those thoughts away now; he knows you’re in Houston, watching his messages at the other end, and the last thing he wants is for you to understand the full truth of his situation.
He’ll tell you someday, he thinks, later on when his feet are back on Californian soil and this ordeal is well behind him. But for now, he estimates he can — somehow — make his last two weeks’ worth of food last him 6. His meals will be on the order of two bites each, but.. it’s entirely possible. It’s at least something he can control, something he can estimate for himself.
The viability of landing a very necessary shipment correctly in a dust storm is something else entirely. Not only can he not control it, but he knows exactly how bad things are. Unlike the unmanned Mars Rovers, his food cannot simply be dropped from the sky and padded with inflatables; the shipment is too heavy and he needs to live out of the container that the food will arrive in — a single dent might leave him truly for dead, and one bounce too hard might send all of his food flying, never to be found underneath a fresh layer of Martian dust. No — the shipment must be landed with fuel-intensive retro rockets, thrusters gently lowering the equipment. A dust storm would interfere with the rocket’s ability to communicate with Mission Control, jeopardizing the landing.
Too risky, Sehun concludes. At least eating less per day isn’t as big of a gamble.
>>> OFFICIAL CORRESPONDENCE: FUEL RESERVES MAY NOT HOLD
Irritated, Sehun holds back from sending a highly workplace-inappropriate retort. He knows the fuel situation isn’t great; the rocket spent nearly eight months traveling from Earth. Of course it’s in the last leg, using the last bit of estimated fuel, and that’s including contingency supplies and redundancies. But he’s down here and Mission Control is up there, teeming with a small swarm of the world’s best astrophysicists. It’s their job to calculate everything, and to make the fuel supply work. If the rocket is held in orbit at a good height, somewhere between the heights of the two Martian moons Deimos and Phobos, then perhaps enough fuel might be conserved to nudge the rocket out of orbit with minimal thrust, with plenty left over to land once the coast was clear.
So he ignores this warning, hoping that the engineers scrambling around in Houston take the hint and figure it out.
<<< OFFICIAL CORRESPONDENCE; OH, SEHUN: ESTIMATED CONTACT WITH STORM?
He can imagine the director’s face now; her lips are probably pressed into a thin line, asshole clenched with the full force of bureaucratic panic, and the image makes him laugh despite his present situation.
>>> OFFICIAL CORRESPONDENCE: STORM TO ARRIVE AT GALE CRATER IN FOUR DAYS, CONTACT WITH ROVER IN FOUR TO SIX DAYS
<<< OFFICIAL CORRESPONDENCE; OH, SEHUN: LAND SHIPMENT AT FIRST OPPORTUNITY; SEND COORDINATES PROMPTLY
Four days is not enough to outrun the storm, but it is enough to get Sehun situated better along Gale Crater such that any emergency trips he may need to make will require little to no energy, using Mars’ meager gravity to carry his science tank somewhat downhill. He pores over the tiny terminal, sighing as he tries to adjust his tired bones and get more comfortable (he knows it’s futile; living out of this vehicle for the past few weeks on his solo trek across this lonelier planet has taught him that there is no such thing as comfort in a non-reclinable seat).
I’ll just make it work, Sehun thinks. He sighs and glances back at his dwindling supply of food, his mind wandering to your homemade pasta and his mother’s incessant supply of kimchi. His stomach rumbles much in the same fashion it has been since he left home base and set off for Gale Crater.
All things considered, he’s doing alright, he tells himself. And it’s true; he’s traveled farther in distance than any of the unmanned Rovers have simply because he doesn’t need individual instructions from Mission Control to move a few feet. He’s literally done what no man has done before, and — if he survives this ordeal — he might just get to brag about it someday.
Sehun squares his shoulders and stretches his neck from side to side, preparing himself for another long, bumpy, and precarious ride across the Martian surface. He checks all of his equipment and types off a brief report to Houston. Then, before setting off, his fingers hover over the small terminal one last time. He doesn’t switch to the separate line this time, primarily because he’s tired and achey and his heart has endured enough stress this past day (hell, year) to last him a lifetime. His mind registers the notion that what he sends will be visible, blown up across several giant screens, in front of a room full of his colleagues.
<<< OFFICIAL CORRESPONDENCE; OH, SEHUN: TELL MY WIFE I LOVE HER
Maybe it sounds a bit like a goodbye. Maybe it’ll end up being one. Either way, Sehun musters up the last of his energy to send this message, then puts the terminal in low-power mode so he can continue towards Gale Crater.
November 29, 2020, Houston, Texas
Your hand flies to your mouth. Half the room turns to glance at you, a few scientists catching a glint of light bouncing from your engagement ring. You’re not his wife — not yet. Had he not flown such an incredible distance away from you, you might have been his wife by now, a year’s worth of wedding planning and cake tasting and seating arrangements behind you. But that was not the reality you lived in.
His failure to address you correctly worries you and encourages you in one fell swoop; did he make the mistake because he’s hungry and delirious, possibly inches from death? Or was it intentional, a way of telling you what you mean to him, a way of conveying how he sees you and how you’ve kept him company in his isolation? Or — was this a cry for help, a glimpse into his fear?
A thousand implications race through your mind and the weight of all of them, good and bad, pushes on your shoulders. Your legs give out, and someone has the sense to quickly roll a chair over for you to collapse into. Someone else rolls you towards a terminal.
Every press of your finger against a key feels incredibly loud and impossibly long, but you manage to string together a coherent set of words.
>>> OFFICIAL CORRESPONDENCE: YOU’RE GOING TO MAKE IT. I’M RIGHT THERE WITH YOU
You’re not sure who you’re comforting at this point, but you figure that you both probably need it.
November 29, 2020, Mars, Near Gale Crater
Sehun doesn’t hesitate to kick the rover into drive (if he can even call its glacial pace that, he thinks wryly), setting off on the desert planet and knowing that he will be completely alone once more. But there’s something about the difference between sheltering in place (alone) and trying to inch along a foreign landscape in a tiny tin can (alone), and something else entirely about said tin can being mostly reliant on solar power.
He doesn’t lie to himself by pretending that everything is alright. Sure, he’s only a a week and a half away from the new estimated dropsite. But he’s only a week and a half away in distance alone. If he reaches the dropsite but the equipment can’t land, he’s left for dead with a set of rations that he isn’t sure can last through a long storm. That’s even if he reaches the dropsite; driving in without Houston’s assistance with his geopositioning, he may veer off course under the dust cloud cover and end up kilometers away from where he needs to be — thus stretching out his return trip to the dropsite’s coordinates.
The seat bounces him along, the rover jolting forward as uncomfortably as it has for the past few weeks. Every few days in his trip so far, he’s made it a point to actually step outside of his rover and stretch (well, as best as he can in the behemoth of a protective suit he has to wear for these excursions). Those few minutes alone, Sehun finds, are worth it — he does try to shift in his seat or stretch laterally in order to ‘prevent his ass from getting chair-sores’ as the rover traverses rocky terrain — but they are still not enough to make him feel reasonably pleased in his own body.
Lost in his own thoughts and faced with his own potential doom, Sehun barely hears the beep of the console as the Tank takes him closer to the impending storm. He glances down quickly, not giving it much brainpower, and glances back through the front windows. His eyes listlessly scan the same red horizon he’s been staring at for months now, and his stomach twists with the anticipation of his chances of survival narrowing further.
“What?” He freezes, a small processor deep in the recesses of his brain finally comprehending the message he received. Sehun almost brakes the rover right there, but he catches himself in time and lets the vehicle continue — thank goodness; energy is his only valuable resource right now and he cannot afford to waste any of it by losing velocity. But he clasps the console all the same, leaning over to squint at the lines of text on the screen.
I’m right there with you.
He squints again, thick brows furrowed in confusion, while his brain struggles to deduce the meaning behind this message. It was sent from Houston, under official correspondence. A quick scroll through the most recent, panicked exchanges from Control and they all read the same; engineers disagreeing with his judgment, worrying over every detail, then finally relenting to keep the shipment in orbit. None of the messages ever come from an individual. None of them ever extend moral support — only technical guidance.
There can only be one logical reason behind this message: you’re at Houston, watching his messages get delivered to the array of screens in the control room.
You have no reason to be there. What with the earthquake recovery efforts and Junmyeon’s house rebuild, you certainly have your hands full. Your computer has the messaging software and you can directly contact him whenever you want. The only reason you would possibly drop everything to be at NASA for would be to receive real-time updates on his situation, rather than status reports filtered through the policy and liaison teams who always — always! — leave out as many mission details as possible. You need to be where the science is, Sehun realizes, because the scientific data flowing into Houston is the only source of truth you can get about every technical detail of his mission.
Being in Houston puts you as close to Sehun as you possibly can across time and space — all to make sure you can be informed of every piece of minutiae. It is the ultimate way to support him from your limited scope on Earth, by sharing in his journey with him, good or bad, and by accessing all the knowledge he has.
Sehun’s fingers hover over the console, but he can’t find the words to return. His eyes fixate on his last message to Houston, and the two words he uses to describe you — his wife. Thoughts race through his head, all competing for the chance to be sent across the solar system to NASA’s satellites. He faces his mortality, knowing that the odds of him having enough food and water to keep him alive until the dust clears are gravely slim and possibly none. But your few words give him just the shred of motivation he needs to cling to a thin hope that his idea will work out. He can feel you with him, in him, flowing through his veins as the love of a lifetime.
He promised you he would return. You responded by doing your best to be by his side.
<<< OFFICIAL CORRESPONDENCE; OH, SEHUN: thank you
Sehun raises his eyes back to the horizon. His belly feels full even though his last meal was two bites of an energy bar five hours ago. Maybe, just maybe, this all just might work out for him.
December 2, 2020, Houston, Texas
Several dozen pairs of eyes bore into almost as many dozens of screens. Some screens are blue, some are black with smatterings of code, but the majority of them are coppery red. The reddish screens flicker every second, pixels updating in a gradient and always in the same order: top-down, one row at a time. The differences between the images are imperceptible. Data points from another planet trickle in from powerful telescopes, relaying that same 8-minute-behind information to the watchers in what feels like real-time.
One screen is almost only partially filled with dirt-red. A portion of the screen contains shadowy pixels, a grayer hue interspersed with dark lines. When the images update, this part of the screen moves up, up, up, towards a watercolor swirl made of tiny lights.
The room is mostly silent except for soft, concerned murmurs and whispers of calculations. It’s quiet because there is nothing else anyone can do. The greyish splotch marches closer and closer to the watercolored red with every new frame. A few pairs of eyes look anxiously up at the black screens, wondering if a line of text might appear — a message, a last rite, some sort of greeting before the dark blot disappears into brick red.
But the blot only inches into the watercolor swirl, beginning to disappear on the screen. One of the black screens, which continuously populates itself with lines of greenish code, keeps displaying new log data. The messaging screens stay blank.
As the last of the blot’s pixels fades into red, one pair of eyes cannot bear to watch the last dot of grey vanish. This pair casts downward, inspecting the neatly vacuumed carpet.
The room loses its last few sounds when the screens show all-red. Some people bow their heads in hopeful prayers and sentiments. Others slink into their desks, dreading the waiting game of the next few weeks. One person turns away from the screens, exiting the room to find a space to be alone — as alone as the astronaut represented by the disappearing pixels.
January 18, 2021, Houston, Texas
The only indication you have to know that you are somewhat keeping it together is the relatively cleanliness of your extended-stay hotel room. It’s been nearly two months now that you’ve been in Houston, save for a brief stint back in Los Angeles to listlessly celebrate the holidays with your friends and family. But as soon as the new year began, you immediately flew back, feeling incredibly uncomfortable in your own home and with festivities that you could barely enjoy.
That being said, you realize that maybe your suite is only tidy because you occasionally allow housekeeping to do their good work.
Tucked between the crisp sheets and with the air conditioner at a comfortable temperature, you drift into yet another night of dreamless sleep. You never wake up that rested these days even though your smartwatch says you’re getting enough REM cycles in — you can’t wake up rested when the night feels like the void and the days do too.
But tonight you are rudely awakened by a commotion outside our suite; you blink blearily at the red digital readout of the alarm clock. It’s not a normal waking hour; it’s approximately 3AM, a mere ninety minutes after you finally fell asleep.
The commotion continues for a bit longer. It’s not until someone yells your name (and other tenant down the hall yells at whoever is screaming at you) that you sit up, instantly alert from alarm. You realize that the banging sound is on your door. You quickly leap out of bed, throwing the provisioned robe around your form, and answer.
Two terse-looking security guards and one frazzled engineer with deep purple beneath his eyes tighten their gazes at you.
“Ma’am,” exhales the engineer. “We’ve heard from Mars.”
You don’t say anything in response, turning on your heel and disappearing into the suite to grab clothes. There’s no time to change here; you shove items into a duffel and follow the two men and female engineer down to the garage where the nondescript black car waits for you (as it typically does, albeit at 7am most mornings).
In the car you try to glean more information from the frazzled engineer, but she passes out next to you in minutes to grab the smallest nap on the way to Mission Control. Every time the car brakes to flash credentials at whatever security outpost, you feel yourself getting more and more irritated. Mere minutes stand between you and vital information and the wait feels more like an eternity.
There is a lot of beeping. When you first stepped into Mission Control two months ago, you expected the energy to be frenetic, but this… this is different. There’s a sense of panic, one that unsettles you to your core, but something tells you that it’s not bad news, because nobody is looking at you and averting their gaze.
In fact, nobody is noticing that you’ve arrived, which is saying a lot, because most days at least a few sympathetic glances are thrown your way. (At first, some engineers scoffed at your presence; a civilian? Given clearance and access to the finest secrets in space travel, simply because they were engaged to a spaceman? But after you disappear to a conference room for a few days to help orchestrate disaster relief and research efforts in the wake of the Los Angeles earthquake, a few engineers step forward to thank you for your work — particularly those with family living near CalTech. A simple Google would have probably helped prevent them from judging you as a misguided romantic, but you don’t hold this against them — if they’re to ensure the safety of your lover, you need them to be focused on him and not you).
Today, nobody pays you any heed. If something bad had happened, you would have had a roomful of eyes on you, waiting for a leader to break the news to you. Instead, people run back and forth, pens behind ears and flying out of pockets, and you notice a cluster of scientists lugging around dusty cardboard boxes full of print binders.
That’s… puzzling, to say the least. But nobody has time to spare to explain anything to you.
You sit in the chair you usually occupy, out of the way but still involved. As you wait for someone to have the chance to breathe and talk to you, your eyes scan the wall of screens. The usual images are displayed: flickering images of Mars; one static profile of Sehun with his height, weight, and mission length listed out; dotted lines tracking as much of his rover journey as possible; meteorological reports and every possible bit of data that NASA would find relevant.
Except today, one-third of the screens display something else; the feed is zoomed into a part of Mars that seems to be emerging from a dust cloud. A little blob of orange-white, next to a smaller blob of dark grey, flickers in and out as each image frame captures the dissipating storm. The blobs are not consistently visible. For some seconds the dust clears; for other minutes-long stretches of time, the burnt orange-red covers them.
Your eyes scan the other screens in this cluster, until a pair of screens flash to black and are rebooted with terminal code. You shift your gaze to the group of scientists flipping madly through age-yellowed pages in thick, official-looking binders. An ancient device, presumably a decades-old hard drive, rests atop a cart with myriad frayed wires plugged into as many adapters, which are finally fed to one of the more modern desktops at Mission Control. Flicking your eyes back up to the booting screens, you catch a very familiar name, Boreal I, flashes the screen, before the terminal populates with lines of data. That’s…
“Chanyeol Park’s mission,” says a gruff voice behind you. You jump, but quickly gather yourself and stand to greet the director. “The dust storm appears to be clearing up a bit earlier than anticipated. We started getting delayed information, at first it was one ping from the Rover’s computer, but we didn’t get much else. That woke us right up, but what happened minutes later was odd; we got a ping from Park’s base in Gale Crater. He shut everything down before his return trip, so there’s no reason for us to be getting feedback from the base when we haven’t in decades.”
He raises his eyebrows at you, his mustache quirking. Clearly, he expects you to put two and two together.
“Is he… Is it possible…?”
“That Sehun somehow made it to Chanyeol’s base instead? That’s what we’re thinking. We didn’t anticipate this so we currently don’t have things set up to receive that data correctly, hence the —“ the director gestures at the pile of old cardboard boxes and archaic technology. “— archival knowledge. We’ll have more for you soon, but we’re tentatively taking this to be a good sign. The base was known to have a considerable runway of water and dry goods when we picked up Park, and we’ll be able to drop the new shipment out of orbit in a few days if the meteorological reports are to be believed.”
You slump back into your chair, eyes transfixed — like all the others in the room — on the feedback coming in on the Boreal I screens.
At some point throughout the night, you’re handed cups of coffee that are quickly refilled. You head to the bathroom out of pure need at 7AM, but you go as quickly as possible so not to miss any potential news.
Then, at 8:30AM, almost all of the screens (except those with crucial data) flip, creating a mosaic that builds a grainy image of your incredibly gaunt fiancé’s face.
“Thought I’d send a video,” Sehun croaks. You can’t tell when it was recorded; you know he has video software at his fingertips but that he’s restricted to recording local logs to his on-premise hard drives rather than sending clips for real-time communication, so it’s odd for him to be showing his face. “This is old-ass technology; tell Loey Park he’s ancient!”
You burst into laughter, a piercing sound amidst all the bated breath of NASA’s finest. Everyone turns to you, and only when someone hands you a tissue do you realize you’re crying.
December 24, 2020, Mars, Gale Crater
It is… cold. So very cold. Colder than when you forget to flip the central heat on early enough for the decades-old boiler in his parents’ ski cabin in Canada to do its job correctly; colder than the most extreme wind chill Sehun has ever had the pleasure of experiencing in Chicago. He doesn’t bother to look at the external thermometer reading; he knows it’s some absurd, un-human-livable number. He’s just grateful that the rover is insulated well enough to keep him alive, though he sorely wishes he was in his old basecamp, which was insulated to keep him comfortable.
He turns in his seat. It’s leaned as far is it will go, though it’s not completely flat. What he would give to not be sleeping in his mylar sleeping bag for another night — he’s so cold, down to his bones, and it’s not only because of the low temperature outside but because he imagines he’s barely skin and bones at this rate.
Sehun is hungry, but if the dust storm is going to last three more weeks he cannot allow himself another bite or sip of water for the day. His ration is spent, and he must sleep (or rather, try his best to do so) before he can ‘unlock’ another day’s worth of almost-sustenance. He’s already had to re-size his portions ‘just in case’ things don’t work out, but the longer he goes on eating in this fashion, the more he is acutely aware that humans were not meant to subsist on crumbs per day.
But it’s hard to sleep when he can feel his stomach eating itself from the inside out. So, on nights like this — which come frequently these days — he gives up. If he won’t sleep anyway, he’ll drive, in the efforts that he will reach the edge of the storm sooner rather than later, and get to his new shipment of equipment just in time for him to have a proper meal. So far, this has worked out. Not well, per se, but it has at least allowed him to cover more ground than he could if he did actually rest. The sleep deprivation is getting to him, of course, but after a few days he is usually so beat that even the hunger cannot keep him awake. He sleeps for 16 hours on this days, and he wryly calls his new schedule ‘intermittent sleeping’ as if it were an optional diet and not a survival mechanism.
Today he sighs and inches the rover forward. Thankfully, it can run (poorly) by converting some of the static electricity that the dust brings to his vehicle. It’s not much, but it lets him get a few more feet each day from the diffuse, barely-there light that manages to eke down between clouds of dust. Without direct sunlight, he can’t send messages, but the little indirect light he does get is enough to support a little bit of travel each day. Sure, his rate is less than the 17 km/h he really wants, but since he can only estimate whether he’s even on track or not towards his destination from localized topographical readings and old-school, map-reading navigation, any movement is better than no progress.
An hour later, he’s no less hungry. While he’s tired beyond all belief, he cannot compel himself to sleep, though he tries. Thankfully, he seems to be on a slight slope, with Mars’ barely-there gravity, it doesn’t send him careening down but at least burns somewhat less of his precious energy.
Something beeps. That’s not a normal sound; Sehun has gotten very acquainted with how Mars moans and groans, and how his Tank communicates with him. Most beeps are quiet and routine; this one is not. It’s not an emergency alarm, at least, but it is not one he expects to hear.
Sehun squints, looking at the various displays in front of him and trying to figure out which one is screaming at him. The low-energy radar beeps again, and he glances at it. As the needle sweeps over the stretch of terrain in front of him, a bright green dot appears at the edge of the detection range.
There shouldn’t have been any big obstacles on the route he chose, based on the data he collected when he first plotted his path and still had some connectivity to NASA’s database. And the dust storm, while inconvenient, shouldn’t have been strong enough to lift large masses of rocks. He shivers, but continues driving the rover forward, and pointedly tries not to think about the granola bars behind him. Some delirious, hopeful part of him wonders if NASA ended up attempting the equipment drop and that the freshly-landed container is emitting a low signal — an oasis waiting for him in the blustery desert.
As the dot gets closer, Sehun doesn’t see much. He has a reasonable visible range before him; it’s far shorter than the radar can detect, but he can at least see about 50 feet in front of him. Not clearly, of course; the dust makes the image a little difficult to make out, but as far as he can tell, the ‘road’ is clear.
But when the radar’s dot passes into that 50-foot range, he sees an oddly rectangular-looking orange rock. Or rather… orange-white; it’s paler than its surroundings. He narrows his eyes more, trying to focus his pupils better — his nose scrunches and his brows deepen. It… sort of looks like a building.
No. Sehun shakes his head, trying to clear his eyes. This must be a mirage; he’s imagined the world of Dune long enough and watched enough Mad Max films to understand that some things are things of fantasy. There are no buildings on Mars; no oases built by other travelers in this desert. This isn’t the Sahara; the only other building on this entire planet is the one he vacated hundreds of kilometers away.
But the ‘building’ persists, getting bigger with every foot the rover slowly covers over the sand. It’s when the ‘building’ is 30 feet away that Sehun can make out some symbols amidst the whipping winds and stirring dust.
There is one other building on Mars, discounting the corpses of Mars rovers past. When Sehun sees the navy blue curves of the NASA logo, he remembers that Chanyeol Park’s basecamp was near Gale Crater.
His mind — half-lucid, half-not — recalls all of the research he’s done on the Boreal I mission since he was a little boy watching a documentary on it. Chanyeol’s mission went off without a hitch; supplies were overestimated and there should be (should being the operative phrase) be something for Sehun there — even if only shelter. He prays to whoever will listen that this is reality and not his starved body creating illusions, and pushes the Tank ever-forward.
It takes some effort to scramble out of his lighter protective gear and into his Mars-walking suit, especially in the tight constraints of the rover’s cabin, but he’s done it so many times in the past few weeks to brush dust of off the windshield that it’s almost effortless for him in his excitement.
Parking the rover by the side of the building he is now 90% convinced is real, Sehun trudges forward. The effort winds him almost at once; his physical decline accelerated over the past few days after he re-portioned his rations, and it shows. But hope, that dangerous thing, has Sehun gritting his teeth against the heaviness of his suit and weakness in his muscles. He sucks in as much oxygen as he can from the suit’s limited supply, needing every bit of energy his muscles can convert, and he slumps against the door when he reaches the base.
If there’s one thing to be grateful for regarding the deep loneliness of being the single living being on the planet, it’s that there are no other beings that you require protection from. The camp has no passcode; no secretive locks to keep thieves and robbers at bay. No — the base has the same, albeit older, mechanism on its door, which Sehun operates with great exertion.
Ten minutes later, after screwing the double-walled door shut behind him, figuring out the retro air supply mechanism, and making it past the airlock, Sehun takes off his helmet and gasps in a breath.
He coughs at once; while the oxygen levels are now fine thanks to the basecamp’s filter, his presence has unsettled the thin (but present) layer of dust that covers Chanyeol’s base. It could be worse, Sehun thinks; without the airtightness, the base internals could be completely covered in Mars dust and not the regular build-up that occurs with human life.
Sehun sweeps his flashlight right, then left, taking inventory of his surroundings. Light bounces off a marked box with cylinders resting atop it; he lunges forward to unscrew the cap of a cylinder. He gives the liquid inside one millisecond of a cursory glance to make sure it’s not any strange color, then immediately lifts the bottle to his lips. As the ice-cold water, still preserved after all these years, slips past his throat, he groans, slumping to the ground and downing the rest of the bottle.
His stomach protests at the sudden invasion of much more mass than it’s gotten accustomed to, and Sehun knows his stomach feels ill — but he, stomach aside, feels like a million bucks. It is much quieter inside the base than it is inside the rover. While the building feels like an icebox due to neglect, it’s already more comfortable than his past few weeks’ of accommodation.
I’m alive, Sehun thinks, and this thought alone gives him the spring in his step to power up the rest of the unit’s battery. I’m going to make it! And just in time for Christmas.
Late February, 2021, Houston, Texas
It takes a few days in mid-January for all of Sehun’s back-dated queue of messages to get to Mission Control; it comes in incomplete segments, interrupted by the still-dissipating traces of the dust cloud’s solar interference. Once Houston receives the last of his reports and both parties across space and time are finally on the same page, the full picture of Sehun’s survival become quite clear.
There are some details you retroactively think you could have done without. For example, some of the engineers eventually force Sehun to go back and take inventory of the rations in his rover. While he would have had enough to make it out of the storm, he might not have been around long enough to wait for any delays in the new equipment drop.
Medics make him take his vitals and send back as much data as possible; this takes quite a while to compile, but eventually he’s given a clean bill of health — though he’s also given a warning about his nutrition and a strict plan on how to begin rehabilitating his body after weeks of deprivation.
You’re at Mission Control every day; especially now that Sehun’s started to send some other pre-recorded video reports from Loey Park’s old software. These are all technical, save for one video in which he asks if you’re still in Houston (you send a message to his rover’s computer, and he sends a paragraph that is partly an apology for being too busy with updating NASA to talk to you and partly an ode to how much he misses you). It’s understandable, though frustrating that he doesn’t use the video feed to communicate with you (the technology cannot be adjusted to open a private channel for Sehun to talk to you — while this is technically feasible, it is certainly not the best use of the engineers’ time or budget). You feed yourself on his reports. Being able to see him is a blessing in itself, and you will take whatever you are given.
By early February, Sehun has sent over a list of his inventory at the Boreal camp, and a few cheeky messages about how disgusting forty-year-old hardtack is (though he tells Mission Control to thank Chanyeol for leaving behind so much honey). The new shipment is dropped out of orbit and landed successfully a few days after that, which gives his rover enough time to charge under direct sunlight to make the trip to the dropside. He sends another video after that, and while he still looks incredibly thin, the medical team seem to be satisfied with the color in his cheeks and the disappearing circles beneath his eyes. It will take him some more time to become slightly less skeletal, but the new shipment contains wet goods and proteins for him to fill up on.
<<< it was really weird to heat up the honey in an old cleaned-out tuna can. When I got to the Boreal camp it was rock-solid and I had to chip it off with a spoon, can you imagine? But the calories in the sugar helped a lot. I’m feeling a lot better now, I promise.
He carefully decides not to tell you that he feels like death warmed up in messages he sends you. Word from him comes more frequently now, after the flurry of work he had to send to Houston. You can tell that he tries to keep the tone light and reminiscent of his usual jaunty self, but something itches at you. There’s something he’s hiding, you can feel it, but he gives off the stubborn air that he doesn’t want to be pressed on it. Even so, you match him, not wanting to bring up how close he was to not outliving the storm. It’s difficult, limiting your conversation, and sometimes you don’t know how to reply to him when you have very little to share about — but you try your best.
There will be time for unpacking his experience, you think. For now, you are merely grateful for his safety.
<<< the vent filtration system wasn’t as nice as mine, of course. Weird to be seeing 80s’ tech on another planet, lol. But I cut up some of the synthetic fabrics used to pack up the new shipment of supplies and taped it over the vents and things are a lot better. I can’t convert the supplies bunker into my main camp until I clear out all the supplies, which will take a few more days, but I at least sleep there now and it’s definitely nice and warm. Definitely don’t enjoy having to commute to the Boreal camp all the time to send videos, but I’m permanently at the dropsite’s new camp now.
>>> i hope the honey didn’t taste like tuna!
<<< it didn’t! But I had tuna from the new shipment yesterday and it was glorious. Not as good as when you put tuna in kimchi-jjigae, but still.
It takes him a day to respond to that, a bit longer than his other replies even with the delay.
<<< I am too.
His fingers hover over the keyboard; there’s so much he wants to convey, but the 8-12-minute loop prevents him from pressing down on more keys. Sehun wants to tell you that he kept re-sizing his rations and stretching them out for you; that he would never forgive himself from reneging on his promises. But he can’t possibly relay that information to you now. He can’t bring himself to share anything but a light, happy tone, even when it’s not how he’s been feeling since arriving at the Boreal I camp. There’s too much he’s learned; too much he realized was at risk when he set off to drive across Mars. He wants to share a world of knowledge, on suffering and love and loss and survival, but he has yet to understand it himself and knows he may end up saying something misinterpretable if he attempts to share his learnings with you now.
Late December 2020 to Early January 2021, Mars, Boreal 1 Camp
Sehun has perhaps the best Christmas of his entire life. No, that’s wrong; there have certainly been better Christmases, but this year he’s received the best gift — an extended lease on life, after thinking his lease was soon to run out.
He lets himself celebrate during his first day at the Boreal I camp; he dines on a splendid feast of hardened honey he chisels chips out of and sucks on like a lozenge. As he scavenges the dimly lit room, he finds some extremely stale hardtack (as if hardtack weren’t a stale food to begin with) and a few vacuum-sealed bags of highly suspicious jerky. Thankfully, all of the food is surprisingly in good condition, if a bit dry — thanks to the airtightness of the chamber and the special Martian atmosphere being void of anything that could rot away at any nutrition.
His stomach, unfortunately, has yet to adjust to increased portion sizes, but Sehun does feel physically better than he has for nearly two months now.
After Christmas, he takes inventory of his surroundings. There’s not much else to do when he’s already collected plenty of rock samples on his road trip, and the dust storm is still a few weeks away from its estimated departure. Besides, he’s essentially in Loey Park’s Martian bedroom; for decades, Sehun has only seen dated pictures of this place and dreamed of it.
He finds some old Polaroids that look like some of the famed photos that are branded into his memories — these were clearly the candids, or the failed attempts before Chanyeol selected his favorite items to bring back to Earth. Otherwise, the camp is relatively unremarkable. It’s not like Sehun’s base had an abundance of personal touches, either, but for some reason the camp feels a bit more ghostly than Sehun expected it to.
Perhaps it’s that he feels Chanyeol’s presence here. There’s something about how items in the camp were initially discovered; Sehun remembers distinctly feeling like someone left in a hurry, ready to never return. And truly, Chanyeol would never return. Boxes were left half-open, less important items stacked without precision, and his blanket still crumpled in a heap on his bed. All research items were taken back to Earth, of course, and Sehun notices an emptied part of a shelf where Chanyeol’s report binders would have sat. In wall compartment, Sehun finds binders full of unfilled sheets — the little dreamer inside him that longed to be a spaceman since childhood delights in the paper forms NASA created to help structure Chanyeol’s logging, and he stows away a few pages to keep for himself, maybe to frame in your home as a souvenir from the dream that start this all.
But it’s right at the cusp of the new year when Sehun finds a worn journal in a half-empty trash can. He thanks his lucky stars it wasn’t discarded near any food waste but in the office area instead, in between crumpled sheets of mis-filled report pages and Polaroid photographs of the lens half-covered by a finger.
Sehun is first drawn to the notebook because it’s in an odd place, and secondly because Professor Park had been so stoic, so adamantly private about his experience both to the public and to Sehun himself, that he was thrilled to come across what he thought might be the first Martian’s uncensored thoughts. This was the true goldmine — forget the red rocks stowed away in airtight capsules; this is what Sehun always wanted to know. The background story — the real experiences of Astronaut Chanyeol Park.
He flips through the first few pages as a bedtime read, right before the clock strikes midnight on Earth and rings in 2021. Sehun remembers dashing out to his rover to wish you happy new year, knowing you wouldn’t receive his messages until well after the storm cleared and all of his outbox messages were finally sent.
These pages are fairly boring in content, though still exciting to Sehun by virtue of being the first real logs of his favorite famous person. But since most of the scientific reports were documented in official binders — and since Sehun had already read most of those in the run-up to the Ares V mission, he didn’t find Chanyeol’s personal notes on ration maintenance all that enlightening. He dozes off to sleep easily, the journal tucked in his arms. Behind him, the duct-taped fabric around the air vents flutter gently.
In the next few days of Earth’s 2021, Sehun gives himself a well-earned vacation and uses the journal as entertainment. Chanyeol’s next few pages document his phone calls back to Houston.
(Sehun reads these pages in deep jealousy; he somewhat curses his youth and his upbringing in the texting era. How he wishes to receive voice or video footage from Earth — by that he means you, not so much Houston — but he cognitively understands that the amount of data required to send each frame of a video and bits of a voice feed would have made his work much more inefficient than it already was, on top of the information delay. It was certainly faster to read messages and process them than it was to wait for a whole voice message to load. To this day, he still wonders why NASA went with that method, but his history classes remind him that it was the golden era of television and assumptions about telecommunications had been vastly different than today. He is grateful for these learnings towards improved efficiency for his own mission — and truth be told, Sehun is much happier waiting mere minutes for more frequent communication than days or weeks for longer-form videos. It is much more pleasant being kept in the loop).
Chanyeol’s mission starts off more mundanely than the history books make it out to be; the elder spaceman diligently documented his calls with Control, noting his next tasks and objectives and writing down items he wished to bring up in his next meeting. There are some notes about the specimens Chanyeol collects; Sehun already knows the results by heart as he studied those samples himself in preparation for Ares V. Sehun is enamored with this glimpse back in time, and begins to see Mars through Chanyeol’s eyes through the pages of his log.
But it’s the progression of Chanyeol’s entries that turns sour. What spans months of Chanyeol’s Martian experience takes mere days for Sehun to consume, and what he discovers is impossible for him to fully process within the span of a week.
Sehun watches Chanyeol in his mind’s eye, puttering around this very same cabin, waiting for not only data to come in but to fully compile, frame-by-frame, for each few minutes of video exchange between himself and Houston. The journal details the first two calls to Houston, spread out over a few weeks, as taking nearly 5 hours to complete in sheer footage. Sehun has only seen some segments of these, NASA having filtered out filler content or lagged footage, and otherwise having given Sehun the written reports of the video. Sehun realizes that each 4.5-hour conversation must have taken days to relay back-and-forth, and it’s only when Sehun begins reading Chanyeol’s documentation of the latter two hours of these calls that Sehun realizes the calls were partly with a woman named Victoria.
Within the first lines of Chanyeol’s first discussions with Victoria (following those first 2.5 hours of boring checks with Houston), it’s clear that Victoria is not a NASA engineer but rather a civilian woman. And not just any civilian woman, but — according to these pages — the love of Chanyeol’s life. Sehun smiles as he reads along; both Chanyeol and Victoria seem to be struggling with the distance, but they make do — even in their considerably more analog time. Sehun finds himself cheering for them, because he sees himself and you in their conversation, marred by the information delay, and he resists the temptation to flip to later pages to find out how things go.
He pauses, puts the journal into his lap as he takes a swig of delicious water, then realizes that Professor Loey Park is unmarried and has never once mentioned a partner to Sehun.
Uneasy, Sehun continues. He reads about Chanyeol’s next call, which goes about the same, but then checks the date and duration of the third call — it’s shorter, only about two hours, and mostly filled with technical reports. At the end of this journal entry, Chanyeol briefly mentions that Victoria was not in Houston for the call. Sehun swallows thickly, not really enjoying where this is all headed. But even as a feeling of discomfort settles in his still-unhappy stomach, he cannot peel his eyes away from the yellowed pages.
The entries do not improve. Chanyeol documents more calls with Houston and still no word from this Victoria; the writing becomes more melancholy and longing. Sehun watches as Chanyeol makes excuses for Victoria; perhaps she was busy, perhaps something happened; perhaps the trips to Houston were getting expensive and she would return next month. The weeks drag on and turn into months, and the pen-strokes dig into the paper deeper, leaving textured imprints as the letters become darker, thicker, and Chanyeol clearly unhappier.
Another call, a few months after the first two, is noted after Chanyeol describes a dream about his love and how deeply he misses her. This urges Sehun to painstakingly pull on his suit and head to the parked rover, if only to find the picture album in storage that you gave him before he departed. He takes a break from the journal for today, choosing instead to flip through images of you smiling up at him, and he goes to sleep with wet cheeks.
But the journal calls, and Sehun is compelled by it. After another boring breakfast of jerky and honey (he skips the hardtack today), he reads on as Chanyeol’s words become nearly dissociative. He’s jarred by the acute descriptions of loneliness — not because he doesn’t understand them (Sehun, after all, has not spent a day outside of a dust storm not talking to you at least for one text), but because he does understand. Chanyeol documents, in excruciating detail, all of the fears Sehun pushed down deep inside himself when he committed to Ares V; the pages contain all of the worst-case what-ifs Sehun did not allow himself to entertain when he first met Loey Park at that coffee shop in Southern California.
The words on these pages force Sehun to reckon with the desperation he felt in those few weeks, starving in his rover. Chanyeol’s very real, very tangible experience shake Sehun to his bones — without today’s technology, Sehun would be left much in the dark, alone on an entire planet, wondering when he might next hear from his own lady love. It is painfully clear to Sehun that Chanyeol is so broken, so hurt, and yet still so rawly in love.
He’s not sure why he never gave this much thought before he left, but deep down he knows he avoided the possibility of things not working out. Sehun knows he relied on that optimism and his proposal — his promise to you — to give him strength to endure his mission. But as he watches Chanyeol devolve in ink and paper, Sehun wonders how close he himself might have been from losing it all.
It’s when Chanyeol questions what the planet is taking from him that Sehun begins to feel sick to his stomach. Chanyeol wonders whether anyone would care if a dust storm resulted in the termination of his life; it’s clear by now that the abandonment, coupled with the duality of Martian sounds — howling or silence — is overtaking the first astronaut on the planet. The words describe a fever dream of wedding bands and clinked champagne glasses; they detail a mortgage downpayment Chanyeol put down before leaving for Mars, a secret he had been planning to reveal upon return. The following entry has angry pen strokes that wish for the paid-for house to be bulldozed, and Chanyeol laments before Sehun’s eyes that he has nobody to talk to — that the one person he wants so desperately to hear from has not shown up.
In some of the later calls to Control, Sehun notices a line Chanyeol jots down. “I asked if she would possibly come this call,” Chanyeol writes. “They said to give up.” He writes about Control shaking their heads, giving him sympathetic frowns.
What comes after this is alarming. Gone is the love; gone is the hurt that comes from your lover injuring your idea of them. Chanyeol’s words become angrier, completely void of the optimism that lifted his first few entries and the interviews he conducted before departing for the Red Planet. By the time the journal — and Chanyeol’s stint on Mars — ends, he is a bitter husk of his former self. It’s clear to Sehun that the Chanyeol that leaves Mars no longer believes in love; he believes the planet and its depraved isolation are the source and cause of his grief. There is nothing left but ire in the last written pages. Chanyeol hates this planet, Sehun feels, and suddenly Loey Park’s conversation over two cold glasses of iced coffee makes sense.
Sehun closes the worn journal, feeling wholly stressed by the descent into fury he just witnessed.
Things with you were different, right? You spoke to him every day he wasn’t obscured by a dust cloud; despite the little hiccup with his jealousy over Jongin, you were fine. He loved you, you loved him — yes, this experience (and particularly his last two months) were changing him, and presumably you were also being changed by your own troubles on Earth, but… you would be fine, right? The two of you would not face what Chanyeol and this Victoria did … right? How… close had or could the two of you been to the very same situation documented in those accursed pages? You wouldn’t suddenly go radio silent on him for no reason. You would come back to him. And he would make every effort to be there for you. So there was nothing to worry about. Not at all.
But a niggling seed of doubt plants itself into Sehun’s mind — and he thinks it was placed there by the extremity of his life-and-death excursion across Mars, then cultivated by Chanyeol’s desperate, powerful words.
Early March, 2021, Houston, Texas
The dust settles fairly quickly in the wake of the successful shipment and Sehun’s miraculous survival. You eventually find enough comfort in his situation to return to Los Angeles — back to working at your job in-person, furthering the edges of seismology and patiently waiting for Sehun’s mission to end.
Something, however, is off. You wouldn’t quite call him withdrawn, but he is certainly… quieter, or perhaps duller than he normally is. Sehun is a person who speaks in bright primary colors; the world, to him, has always been beautifully simple. Perhaps it’s the dreamer in him, or the hedonist, but few things have come to him through trial and tribulation — he’s certainly been privileged, but he’s also always been so self-assured and committed to his own goals that his confidence has rarely been shaken.
You’ve tried to discuss his near-death excursion a few times, but Sehun changes the subject towards something lighter. Either he asks about your day, or riffs you for your taste in television, or otherwise showers upon you the attention he sorely wishes to give you in person.
But you can feel him pulling away.
It’s hard to say you’re not concerned; you are, surely, but you have learned to place the trust in him that he places in himself. He will come back to you, whole and ready, when it is the time to do so. You tell him as such, however, and he falls silent for almost a full twenty-four hour period.
>>> You give me too much credit.
This message he sends is perplexing. It sounds nothing like the sometimes misguidedly confident man you fell in love with. This man sounds shy, broken, and doubtful.
<<< I don’t. When have I ever? If anything I’m the one who has to put you in your place.
>>> That you do.
>>> I love you.
He’s quiet again for almost a full day, but remembers to send a quick note to remind you not to forget your lunch on your way out to Pasadena. It’s odd. Usually he has a snappy quip at the ready, always sending you something a little spicy to keep you on your toes.
You don’t much appreciate the terse responses, but in the least he is responsive. That day, you remember your lunch (a rather delicious one; Kyungsoo and his wife dropped off some containers of home-cooked food earlier that week). In your regular commute, you can’t help but wonder if Sehun is struggling alone, with nobody to talk to in real-time; nobody to reduce his isolation. You send him random updates throughout your day, to which he replies lightly or distractedly, and it’s perhaps the first time he’s ever sounded so disengaged with you outside of a fight.
July 2021, Our Solar System
>>> I can’t believe you made me read Dune and got me all fussed over Jongin joining our two-person interplanetary book club and DIDNT FINISH IT YOURSELF
<<< in my defense, there are way more distractions on Earth than there are where you are, on planet with a population of one (1).
>>> excuse me: population of two (2).
<<< what, you and your right hand?
<<< wait, NASA, don’t read that
>>> too late.
>>> thank you for helping me getting a masturbation joke into the annals of scientific history
>>> I consider it to be a valuable contribution
<<< if the historian team doesn’t slap [[REDACTED]] over everything we say anyway
>>> wanna go for a redaction record?
<<< no sexting.
>>> I tried
<<< at least Professor Park got some video action in. though from what I remember you telling me years ago, it was mostly official communications, right? I wonder if he was seeing anyone at the time. can’t imagine it would have been easy for them with the telecoms tech we had back then
<<< I gotta run to work but I’ll check back in during lunch
<<< lunch was good. busy collecting samples?
>>> he had a partner
<<< oh? good evening to you, too
>>> her name was Victoria, and she abandoned him
<<< she abandoned him? not the other way around with him, I dunno, leaving for a very precarious mission to a hostile planet?
<<< sorry. guess you didn’t like that. just missing you a lot, and got snippy
>>> it’s fine. it’s not you
>>> I don’t know, there’s this journal
<<< ah, the journal.
>>> did I already mention it?
<<< not quite. Professor Park dropped by the other day and asked me if you’d said anything to me about it. I met his partner as well! Made them a lovely dinner — rather, Julia helped out a lot while Chanyeol — he’s using that name again now! — asked about you
<<< ah, he says not to put too much stock into the writings of a lonely man. why would he say that? what’s in the journal?
>>> he said that?
>>> anyway, don’t worry too much about it. it’s always weird reading someone else’s diary
<<< oooo, a space diary!!
<<< are you keeping one, too?
>>> NASA, are you reading this? this is my diary
<<< ha, ha. why do I have to co-author?
>>> can’t sext alone.
<<< is that what’s on your mind? you’ve been so busy with data analysis and that’s what you make it a point to tell me in 12-minute-delayed asynchronous messages?
>>> consider it a blast from the e-mail past
>>> I might start sending chain mail that you have to forward to another astronaut in five days or else you won’t get your crush to like you back
<<< hm, last I checked he already did. proposed to me, too
>>> sounds like a stand-up guy
<<< he might be!
>>> god. how much longer am I stuck here
<<< oy. I thought you were loving it, eh spaceman?
<<< but as if you didn’t remember, I’ve been scribbling all over our wall calendar with all the tentative dates your pick-up right’s supposed to show up. Thank god that launch was successful. Here’s hoping the pick-up isn’t terrible, either.
<<< hold out just six more months until december, yeah?
>>> I’ve been obsessively checking the launch pod here. No changes day in and day out. Not too many storms this season, either, so I think it’ll all be good.
>>> I miss you. So incredibly much. I want to see you again and smell grass and eat burgers and pass out on our couch.
>>> but I’m also scared
<<< of what?
>>> what if you don’t like me anymore?
<<< of course I’ll still like you. Why wouldn’t I?
>>> I dunno
>>> I might be different
>>> I am different. I feel different
<<< I’d be more surprised if space didn’t change you, love
<<< I know you promised to return to me. I didn’t really get a chance to say this, but I promised to be there when you came back.
<<< and you’re not the only one who keeps their promises.
>>> I’ve been put in a very spacious solitary confinement for nearly three years if you count travel time. you sure you want to stick around for crazy?
<<< you’ve always been crazy
<<< you decided I was your girlfriend and then promptly told me you were going to go to mars, two months into freshman year
<<< and guess what? you made it to mars. crazy would have been making a bunch of random shit up and never executing on any of them
>>> are you sure?
<<< where is this coming from?
<<< whatever it is, when you’re back, we’ll work it out. i promise.
>>> whatever it takes?
>>> even though I’ve left you alone for the past two years?
<<< sure, you left me alone without YOUR presence. but I haven’t been alone. you’ve been here with me this whole time. and I’ve been with you, in the device you’re typing into right now.
<<< besides, if I wanted to get revenge for you trapping me in the longest-distance relationship ever, there would be other methods
<<< months of edging?
>>> I’m never coming back, that sounds like torture. You’re a mean, mean woman
<<< try living through that torture, then
>>> you??? You didn’t???
<<< okay, half kidding. But it’s just not the same without you.
<<< so you’d better return in one piece
The Guardian, UK
Ares V Coverage: A Christmas Miracle! NASA Astronaut Successfully Departs Mars
Thirty-four-year-old Sehun Oh of Los Angeles, California completed a series of maneuvers from the Martian surface towards the in-orbit shuttle. Over the coming weeks, the pilot and astronaut of the resoundingly successful Ares V mission will leave Martian orbit and set sail for Earth.
The Ares V mission had been peppered with survival situations throughout the months Oh spent on-planet. In a feat of self-preservation, Oh traversed over 2000km in the span of a few weeks into a large Martian dust storm, all to align with a shipment of much-needed rations. With the world holding its bated breath, Oh was revealed to have come upon Chanyeol Park’s 1986 Boreal I mission basecamp, which provided vital supplies like water and sustenance to tide him over until the rendezvous.
Prior to ascent, Oh sent a few final messages to NASA, cheekily mentioning his rendezvous with the ruler of his Zodiac sign — a message that will surely perplex the definition of astrology and astronomy on social media in its wake — including a few words for the press.
For the Guardian, he exclusively reports: “Mars has been nothing but a harrowing trial of my fortitude — both physical and mental. Would I recommend it for aspiring astronauts? Yes, but with company.”
Oh is expected to enter the atmosphere in mid-July of next year, after which he will descend into the Atlantic. He will then then spend approximately three months of rehabilitation and monitoring at the recently-renamed Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
July 28, 2022, Florida, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
Sehun has never slept quite so soundly as he does in the first few weeks after his arrival back on Earth. He’s awake for perhaps four to eight hours a day; these hours are mostly filled with a team of medics and researchers poking and prodding every inch of him.
Loey Park — or Chanyeol again, Sehun guesses -- warned him about this, but Sehun finds he doesn’t much mind. He doesn’t remember much of it, anyway — he passes through a fugue state, obeying commands when prompted and only having enough mental strength to remind someone to give him a phone so he can call you and hear your voice for the first time in almost three years. He cries when he does, and he hears you sobbing the other end (he thinks he hears Jongin trying to comfort you, but he’s far too tired to be truly miffed that Jongin’s there holding you and he isn’t). The fifteen-minute call leaves him wrung out and miserable in its wake — but even from those few minutes he knows he is far from ready to face you for real.
Some days, he’s asked to record some footage for NASA’s historical documents — other days, his directors tell him about his press schedule (all over Zoom; he’s still quarantined for now, and all visits from scientific personnel occur in hazmat suits).
Other days, he undergoes a batter of tests and biopsies that leave him sore and fatigued. This, he suspects, contributes to his deep sleep. But when the whirlwind of the short day is done and the medics can sense his energy fading, he dumps himself back into his sterile bed in an observation room and is forced to confront his swirling thoughts.
For the past year, he’s been unable to get the pace of Chanyeol’s journal and descent into furor out of his head. Your texting helped distract him while he was still on Mars, and he spent most of the journey back home in the same induced coma that makes the past year feel more like six months, but now that he is back on real soil with a body that feels alien on this terrain, the doubts planted in his mind begin to fester. Maybe it’s because his acclimatization isn’t going as smoothly as he wants it to (he has acquired a new habit of vomiting every morning when he gets up from bed; they refuse to give him any medications that aren’t life-saving until he has more of a bearing of Earth living). Maybe it’s because a few months seems like an eternity more to wait when he longs to go back to you — but maybe it’s because he’s also not sure if he can even go to you without completely destroying your relationship. He’s not sure if he’s ready, and he hates this feeling of hesitation that he has never once felt before this off-world excursion. It’s the dichotomy between his deepest wants and his deepest fears that keep him rooted to the spot, stuck in the limbo of wanting to throw himself into your open arms and wanting to hide away for your protection.
He doesn’t recognize himself when he looks in the dull mirror of his confinement chamber, and even less so when they give him an access card with his NASA employee photograph on it (taken days before his departure) for him to wander around the quarantine facility for brief outdoor walks. How can he think to go to you when he hasn’t the faintest clue who he is now — and who you might have become?
—————— —————— —————— ——————
October 14, 2022, Florida, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
Chanyeol eyes the handsome young astronaut in his early thirties with a softened gaze of understanding. Across from him in a very familiar and still-dated quarantine facility sits the only human alive who understands even the smallest portion of his plight, of his past, of a Chanyeol who once was.
He’s changed now, Chanyeol is, thanks to the love Julia gives him. He lives now as Chanyeol Park once more, former astronaut, no longer needing to hide it. In part it’s because he’s no longer the only one, and in part it’s because he now — finally — understands that Sehun’s 2018 optimism was, perhaps, not misplaced.
On the contrary, Sehun watches the lines in Chanyeols face, notices how much more relaxed he is, how much less hardened he is. Sehun can tell his own face carries a few new wrinkles and a wearier expression than a returned spaceman probably ought to have.
Chanyeol is the first person to greet him outside of the usual NASA staff, and the first person allowed beyond most of the safety enclosures that keep Sehun quarantined as he adjusts to Earth and Earth adjusts to him. In part it’s because Chanyeol has walked those shoes before, has gone through this quarantine and received a full bill of health after months of rehabilitation, but another part of it is that NASA is curious about the long-term effects of the Martian experience and simply want to know if the two men might react to each other in some extraterrestrial way. (They don’t). But it’s mainly because Chanyeol is the first person Sehun requests to talk to on his own volition — not you. His directors exchange strained glances when he makes this request, having already told Sehun that both you and Chanyeol have been in Florida for a few days now, waiting for Sehun to be cleared for contact with other human beings and moved to Houston for the last leg of his rehabilitation tour. Chanyeol doesn’t question Sehun’s request, though he silently commends the understanding he sees behind the hurt in your irises when you watch him leave the hotel for the Space Force Station. (Julia, Chanyeol’s brilliant partner, takes you into their suite for a bit of tea and her company as a distraction).
Sehun thinks he’s ready to meet someone from outside the NASA bubble. He thinks it’ll be an interesting conversation with Chanyeol — a trading of notes, an inquiry into a mentor’s mind, a sharing of secrets between the only two men in the world who know what it’s like to live on another one. And yet the experience of sitting across from his senior, mirrored so carefully against their first meeting, transcends human understanding. Sehun comes to understand this feeling in his stomach as fate; he’s felt it only a handful of times before, one instance being the time he stood in a dorm building elevator, shoulder-to-shoulder to his still-future wife.
“You survived,” Chanyeol comments gruffly, but the roughness to his voice comes only from natural raspiness and not from his mood.
Sehun nods. Behind his lips are a multitude of questions and comments but his mind has not made up which should emerge first. What about Victoria? What about the seething, white-hot anger that lifted from those penned sheets? What about all the warnings Chanyeol gave him before left — what about the way he, Sehun, has changed in irrevocable ways? What about the fact that both of them were more likely to die than to live, never to return to their loved ones or their former lives?
“How—” he starts, then stops.
“You—” he tries again.
“You were right all along,” Chanyeol finally says, uncrossing his arms so he can lean over and rest his elbows over his knees. “About Mars being worth it. For yourself, at least, and for science, but also for your pigheaded desire to hold onto hope.”
Sehun swallows. That’s not at all what he expected the great Chanyeol Park to say, especially after reading the former astronaut’s words from nearly forty years ago. He knows just how thin the ice he tread on was, how he was inches away from losing it all: his life, his mission, and you. He knows now why Chanyeol only gave him warnings and never gave him reason to hope; he understands that love doesn’t hold on by chance but by effort instead.
“How?” He says at last, this time ending his sentence there. The rest doesn’t need to be spoken.
“Just because my mission failed, doesn’t mean all of them will. Isn’t that what you wanted to tell me when we first met?” Chanyeol’s full lips quirk to the side, hiding a smile the older man wishes to suppress.
“Your mission didn’t fail,” Sehun bites out. “You came back, just like I did. But everything else went to shit for you.”
Chanyeol merely raises an eyebrow. “What do you want me to say? Yeah, that all happened. I’m not proud of how I handled it and still not terribly pleased with the outcome I endured at the time. But what have you chosen to learn from my past?” He knows from one look into Sehun’s tired eyes that the younger man is haunted by the intensity of his own desolation — while Chanyeol doesn’t regret the truth of his words for who he had been back then, he does regret the near-scaremongering he gave the kid when Sehun first came to him with questions on the Boreal I mission. The younger astronaut, while triumphant in the pursuit of science, seems truly afraid that he might still lose the love he so confidently clung to years before.
Sehun bites his lip, frustrated, and looks to the side. How does he explain that he’s scared of returning to you, knowing he’s changed and so have you, that he’s shaken by Chanyeol’s experience? He’d always felt that people always have something to learn from others, but this is one lesson he thinks he could have done without. And yet the truth of knowing how delicate all good things are is better than ignorance. But how can he face you, when his mind is awake with worries and echoes of Chanyeol’s haunted past? He knows your relationship didn’t grow as much as it should have while he was away; it didn’t deteriorate, and it withstood its challenges, but it was put in maintenance mode. How can he be ready to begin developing that love again when he now knows how fragile a relationship with an astronaut can be, especially when one partner is tested with survival against all odds?
Chanyeol allows his groupie to simmer in his thoughts for a few silent minutes, before sighing and stretching in his uncomfortable metal seat.
“Look. You made it across space and back, across half the goddamned Red Planet and back. Wasn’t it you who looked me square in the eye and told me another Mars mission could be done? Wasn’t it you who told me it was worth it at all costs? Now that I’ve been somewhat convinced, you’re suddenly shying away from all that you’ve accomplished?” Chanyeol lets out a harsh scoff. “What a disservice to your girl.”
Sehun’s eyes flick up at that, a murderous glare peeping out from beneath his expressive brows. Laughter bubbles from Chanyeol’s chest.
“There we go. That’s the drive that brought you home, kid. Back to Earth, back from the brink of starvation. Against all odds, just like you were adamant was gonna happen. You gonna waste that by drowning in the ghosts of my past?”
“That’s not fair and you know it,” Sehun barks, voice clearly warning the older man away from pushing too many buttons. “I just—” He pauses. “I just mean that… I get it. We weren’t guaranteed to stay together through the mission, even with advanced communication technologies. If even a few more things went wrong, my future could have been much the same: pointless—”
“That’s where you’re wrong,” Chanyeol interjects. He shoves his hands into his pockets, pads of his fingers brushing over his worn leather wallet where he has tickets from his last date with Julia tucked away. “I thought it was pointless, especially after I came home to find the house empty and Victoria mothering some other person’s child at a completely different address. But it wasn’t. It took your mission, time, and Julia to help me realize that. Don’t make my mistakes, especially when you’ve been given the benefit of modern technology to keep your love alive.”
Silence settles over the two men, save for the faint hum of equipment somewhere deep in the facility.
“But how do I move forward?” When Sehun speaks up next, his voice is barely a whisper.
Chanyeol grins at that, reaching forward to slap the younger astronaut across the arm, hard. It’s the first human touch Sehun has had since leaving Earth that hasn’t been a probing or a prodding for educational purposes. (Sehun yelps, his much-weakened muscles still on their way to full recovery). “One small step for mankind at a time, son. One step at a time, until you’re back home.”
Chanyeol returns to the hotel, his face expressionless but his footsteps light. Julia quickly rises to greet him, tugging towards where you had been having a minor nervous breakdown over tea. You immediately begin asking questions, but Chanyeol closes his eyes and puts his hands up for you to pause.
“He’s okay,” Chanyeol tells you. “But I imagine he needs to talk to you soon.”
Your brow furrows in worry as your phone blares to life. The caller ID reads the local liaison’s number, and you bid the couple good night before disappearing back into your room.
After you disappear, Julia turns to Chanyeol, curious. He only lets out a bark of laughter, then reaches for her waist and pulls her tight into his side. “They’ll be fine,” he says without doubt. “They’ll get there. In time.”
“Just like you did,” she replies warmly as she spreads her fingers across his chest and gives him two quick pats.
“Just like I did,” Chanyeol repeats in mild wonder, before leaning down to press a kiss into her hair.
“I think you should fly back home.”
You stare at the image on your laptop screen, so caught off guard by his words that they don’t register. Your heartbeat thunders in your ears from the adrenaline rushing in your veins from the thought that Sehun just had his first in-person visit from someone outside of the quarantine team, so it takes you a minute to understand what the hell Sehun just said. You still don’t get why he’s Zooming you instead of getting the NASA folks to let you see him through Plexiglass or something — anything — but the call notification came faster than you could even come up with questions to ask Chanyeol about his talk with Sehun, and the rush back to your hotel room for some privacy had been even more frantic.
“Sehun, I missed you so much—” His words form in your brain mid-sentence. “Wait, what?”
He tucks his lips into a tight line, then sighs, shoulders slumping. “Don’t stay at the hotel too long and just head home.”
“Sehun, why? What? You’ve just been cleared for visitations. I’m okay seeing you behind barriers, that’s totally fine, don’t worry!” You’re too shocked to have any other emotion other than panic. “I took time off in case there were other precautions we needed to wait for.”
“I need more time, babe,” he says, and it’s then that you notice how weary he sounds.
Your face falls. He starts, body lurching forward and hand shaking right in front of the camera in a fuss.
“No — wait — don’t get me wrong, I want nothing more than to see you,” he admits hastily. “God, what I wouldn’t give to have you in my arms and the scent of your shampoo in my nose. I haven’t held you close in so long—” his voice cracks. “Haven’t heard your voice live and in person, unfiltered through technology; haven’t seen you, felt you, touched you—” you feel your own face heating up at the need apparent in his voice. “But… I can’t.”
Your breath keeps itself in your throat, preventing exhales or inhales. You don’t like how his voice breaks in agony.
“You can’t what?” You ask tentatively, wishing you could reach through the screen and cup his cheek in your hands, ironing the tension in his jaw away.
“I just can’t,” he lifts his arms lamely, waving them in the air pointlessly. “I am not myself and I won’t face you until I’m whole again.”
“Sehun, what—” You’d pick up the pieces of him if that’s what it took — you never expected him to come back unchanged. “I can handle it!”
“But I can’t,” he croaks, and it’s then that you notice light bouncing off the tears staining his cheeks. “I need to process—” he waves his arms again. “Everything. There’s so much I learned, so much I still don’t understand, and until I can face you the way I want, I can’t come back home. I need this. Please.”
You close your mouth, heart breaking at the worry evident in Sehun’s usually cheerful timbre, but you know you can’t stop him once his mind is made. He’d seemed so upbeat in those messages leading up to his return trip, even if there were only a few exchanges per day. But you have no idea what’s gone on in his mind during the entire duration of the trip; without real-time communication and hard work, it would be impossible.
“It’s not my decision to make, Sehun,” you hear yourself saying, but the words fall on your ears strangely, as if you’re underwater. You want to see him as soon as he’s cleared; there’s nothing you’ve wished for since he left in that first rocket. But you want him to feel fully actualized when you finally meet again — so that’s what leaves your lips even as your heart longs to beg him to allow you in. “I don’t understand, to be clear,” you warn. “But we’ve come this far, what’s a bit longer, right?” You give a weak smile; you’re aware your voice affirms your lack of strength, and your body has run out of the energy and adrenaline that came from the knowledge that Sehun was home. Almost.
Sehun hangs his head. “I’m sorry. I just don’t want you to see me until I’m ready. I want to come home to you, not as a weak invalid with my mind still haunted by Mars, but as the man you deserve. In sound mind and body.”
“Sehun,” you sigh. “You are more than complete and deserving. No matter what.”
He swallows thickly. He wishes he could feel that way, but he knows he needs this for himself.
Neither of you say anything, but your eyes roam the computerized images of each other with great appetite, committing each new detail to memory. Your hair is shorter; Sehun swears he can see the fuzzy growth of the side-shave you mentioned getting months ago when the heat from the Southern Californian summer became too much. Sehun is gaunt and frail-looking, an aesthetic you haven’t quite seen since you met him at eighteen, but he’s still him albeit a bit worse for wear. His hand absently raises to rub at the tears forming in his eyes; to you, he looks like a gaunter version of his teenage self who cried at the saddest movies or when he felt he hurt you too much in a fight. Your heart sings to him, hammering in your chest and fighting back tears of your own as you focus on what matters now. Most importantly, he’s home, on a local internet connection — he’s no longer a series of photographs and memories tied to an occasional text from a faraway planet.
“Please wait for me,” Sehun suddenly says, voice small and worried, even though you’d just resignedly agreed to give him the time he needed. Did he think you’d refuse? Did he think you’d be unwilling, or perhaps unable to see the future months through?
“Is that even a question?” The question comes out without malice, and you lift your hand for him to see the ring he gave you mere hours before takeoff so many moons ago. “I’ve got a wedding to plan, and I don’t plan on seeing venues without my fiance,” you chuckle, and Sehun smiles.
“I’ll look forward to my suit fitting, then,” he says softly. He whispers an ‘I love you,’ looks directly into the camera at you, and logs off before you can reply.
—————— —————— —————— ——————
Early December, 2022, Houston, Texas
Once freed from physical quarantine and now entitled to go where he pleases, Sehun opts to go to Houston. This puzzles his higher-ups, who thought he’d have raced back to Los Angeles instead, but word gets around that he wanted (needed) more time to process his experience.
There’s a strange hush that follows him around Mission Control — a sort of awe at his feat. He’s not sure why that is, because Chanyeol technically did it first, but then he remembers just how poorly Chanyeol reacted to his own return to Earth. Right. Everyone probably expected someone withdrawn and unhinged, angry with the world and with the cosmos. Well, Sehun can’t blame them. He is a little quieter than all of them remember; before liftoff and while he had been training and educating for his mission, he had always been one of the first to tease his team or beg for free coffee with a pout on his lips and a light breeze in his heart.
He checks himself into a short-stay rental not unlike the one you booked over a year ago. He can afford a suite, but keeps it simple.
By day he sits in the library on-campus, poring over the yellowed pages of the Boreal I mission documents or at his laptop, reviewing notes from the Houston side of Ares V. It’s a bit jarring to see his experiences reported in such a clinical fashion. Sure, he submitted his own reports in a dry manner, but he was the one out there in the howling winds and extreme temperatures — it wasn’t just lines of facts in a database, it was a real lived experience that tested him emotionally and spiritually.
It’s nice, though, to be able to socialize with the people who made his trip to Mars a reality. He gets to thank them in person and be regaled with stories of them panicking over his survival road trip — naturally, he’s asked to recount his own side to several different groups. (One time, a group of Texan kindergartners are invited to the Space Center. A teacher records his tale on an iPhone, and the video quickly goes viral on YouTube. Sehun later learns that the ad money was used to fund a new STEM program for the kids, and he can feel the clutch of fear pried around his heart start to lose its grip).
He makes it a point to video-call you at least once every two weeks during his stay in Houston, but something else he tries is sending you snail mail. It’s odd; he’s got his phone back and could text you at his every whim. But Sehun wants to overwrite the images of Chanyeol’s dark, angry ink in his mind, so he writes with a simple blue ballpoint and diligently goes to the post post office every two business days in order to send you his letters.
To his delight, you write back, in variable colors of ink (at his request). With every exchange, with the responses Chanyeol never got back, Sehun begins to forget the lines he once memorized from that angry journal, until only a faint image of black ink against beige paper bound in a notebook remains.
In the evenings, he reads voraciously, pointedly avoiding any technical sources and instead purchasing book after book on introspection, self-discovery, survival against the odds, and spirituality. He devours the Talmud, contemplates the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh, and gorges himself on shorter pieces on superhuman feats by determined people.
A few evenings (and some mornings), he puts himself through a punishing gym regimen that he absolutely hates. It’s strange to him, because he used to pride himself on his good looks (a point of humility you’ve always told him he needs to learn) and stature. The first weeks are barely any better than the physical therapy he underwent in Florida, but as he pushes himself to the brink and begins to eat better (this is much more entertaining — and delicious), he feels his physical strength begin to return. He glances down at his ID badge with less dysphoria these days.
On weekends, he indulges in vintage car rentals and drives to the coast. In this reflective period, he reacquaints himself with the sensations of this planet: of the air, of the land, of the ocean, of the sand. He rebuilds his understanding of the strength of humanity and the power of the mind as the ringing of Martian winds fades from his ears.
But it’s the nights that trouble him most, even has he makes marked progress and settles his heart. At night, he thinks of you, missing your form by his side. He can’t remember what that feels like; he thinks he lost those memories on his trek across the barren red wasteland during his descent into starved delirium. He thinks back to those lonely nights on his cot, soothing himself with mental images of you beside him, beneath him, encompassing him. It frustrates him that he can’t remember. He’s not once forgotten your face thanks to his photographs, and upon arrival he instantly re-memorized your voice. As the weeks go on and he feels his strength rebuilding, he feels this frustration building back into a desire that supersedes his doubts and fears.
He’s almost there. He knows he is. And he says as much in his more recent letters — going so far as to give you a date range to look forward to, and mailing you a printout of plane tickets: one-way, Houston to Los Angeles.
December 23, 2022, Southern California, Los Angeles International Airport
Your gaze bores into the tile floor of a very familiar place. Not four years ago, you were standing right here, shifting your weight nervously between your feet, waiting for a certain man to return from a trip to space.
That trip had been much shorter, and you felt much younger then.
This time, the airport is even more crowded than usual. You’re only safe from jostling thanks to NASA-hired security guards who keep Chanyeol (and you, by proxy) sheltered from the rather large throng of fans gathered to cheer Sehun Oh on his return to normal society. You haven’t the faintest idea how people got his flight information — the way the crowd acts, you’d think he was a Hollywood celebrity or something. But you suppose that some people are here for Chanyeol, too. It’s just as well that the only to men to have made it to Mars and lived to tell the tale are good-looking, as well.
Julia squeezes your arm in comfort, and you place your fingers over hers gratefully. Your heart thunders in your chest with every slide of those doors; your eyes sweep over every person coming through.
After nearly half an hour, you begin to fidget more and avert your eyes back down to the tile once more. The tile is safe. The tile doesn’t get your heart rate up the way that strangers passing through the Arrivals door do. The tile is definitely not Sehun and does not carry the possibility of ever being Sehun.
You only get to stare at the tile for a few more seconds.
“Hey, look.” Chanyeol nudges you, voice tight. Your eyes follow where he points at the arrivals coming through the sliding doors. At the end of the hallway, you see a tall, sturdy-looking man with perfectly coiffed hair striding up the ramp, a small weekender bag in one hand, a boxy shopping bag in the other, and nothing else. Guess he didn’t have enough interplanetary possessions to warrant a whole suitcase.
Your heart leaps into your throat. The air feels thin and your ears feel filled with cotton; you can’t hear the wild screams that erupt behind you that well. You gasp for your breath, trying desperately to refill your lungs as your chest tightens. Every step he takes towards you largens the image of him before your eyes; it’s hard for your brain to reconcile the people in front of you with reality. For so long, he has only been a few pixels programmed to replicate the curves of his face, or words on a screen, or paragraphs on a sheet of paper. He cannot be reality. He cannot be home. And yet you have yearned for nothing else since he left.
You swallow thickly, the motions of your throat loud in your ears. The professor clears his throat beside you and nudges you again. Momentum propels you one step forward, but you don’t notice — everything in the room except the man before you faded away as soon as the doors opened. Nothing else exists on this astral plane except your astronaut. The bouquet you’d thought to bring Sehun drops to the waxy tile floor, bouncing once before Chanyeol tries to catch it. You try to run forward, but your legs refuse to obey. They manage one shaky step forward, but Chanyeol catches you in time and stabilizes you by your elbow before you’re enveloped in a pair of strong, familiar arms. Cameras flash all around you and voices clamor to get an interview with the second Martian, but on this side of the rope your world only consists of Sehun.
An unfamiliar scent initially comes to you, but beneath it is something much more reminiscent of the love of your life. A strange sound fills your ears only for you to realize it’s your own sobs. The body in front of you moves away, your fingers grappling at their back so that you can try to cling on, but in the next moment a pair of capable lips covers yours, and the arms return to hold to you even tighter.
“See?” Sehun croaks as he pulls away and presses his forehead to yours. The skin of his eyelids is tired but the light in his eyes burns bright. “I kept my promise,” he falters, swaying a bit as you both struggle to manage your emotions. You muster up your courage and attempt to support your own weight as he wraps thin arms around you — it’s a strange feeling to have him feel so slight in your grasp, especially knowing he’s been diligently trying to rebuild Earthly strength during his extended rehabilitation. But if there is one thing you have known about the life you built with him, it is that you are — and always will be — his strength. The body in your arms is foreign, weaker than the experienced swimmer who left your home for the stars three years ago, but as you fold into his embrace, you know exactly who he is: he is your home.
April 8, 2023, Southern California, Los Angeles, Griffith Observatory
A few rows of chairs line the front lawn at the Observatory, graced with floral arrangements in tasteful colors. A jazz quartet from the local music college sits off to the side, gently playing a soft, romantic song that lulls everyone into feelings of goodwill and comfort. The sun looms over the horizon, hanging out for the golden hour, and drenches your backyard in diffuse light. It’s warm today, not warm enough to be sticky but not warm enough to prevent you from shivering in a slight breeze.
You stand in the front, facing a tall man in a well-fitted suit. To your right, Junmyeon is decked out in much the same, but it’s your retired astronaut that fills your entire consciousness. He looks amazing as always, but it’s been a while since he bothered to style his hair into perfection. He also looks incredibly nervous, which is a fun sight to see while he’s dressed to the nines in a crisp navy suit. Sehun has been where only one other man has been before and survived against poor statistical odds, and yet despite his amazing feats, the man is still somewhat terrified to get married in front of all of your friends and family. Maybe he’s scared to get married in front of Chanyeol, who sits with Julia in the front row next to Sehun’s parents. But considering how close the two Martian men have gotten in the past few months, it must not be that — it must just be those wedding nerves that get the best of even the strongest-willed.
His hands are tucked into yours as Junmyeon says some words that both of you barely remember responding to (you’re going to get scolded for this later at the reception, after Junmyeon has one too many G&Ts, because Junmyeon really did put in a lot of work for your ceremony). Sehun looks almost lost, though not like a child at a mall but rather like a man who is perfectly content to be drowning in your eyes.
And he is definitely lost, because Junmyeon has to clear his throat three times and tug at Sehun’s sleeve (to which Sehun gives a very intelligent ‘hunh?’) in order to get Sehun to recite his vows.
Sehun looks at you, trying his hardest to prevent the moisture in his eyes from vacating their premises. He averts his gaze and glances towards the guests as he lets go of your hands and fishes out his bulleted notes from his pocket. From the front row, both sets of your parents smile at you, your fathers dabbing at their eyes with handkerchieves. That doesn’t help him keep the tears at bay any, so he tucks away the notes that he’s not capable of reading right now and looks down at your dress instead as he clenches and unclenches his hands by his sides.
But the words he’s rehearsed in his mind won’t come out. They’ve been with him so long, laced into his breath when he first started practicing his vows in the lonely Martian nights. They refuse to come to him; they hold themselves in his chest and take root.
“I—“ He lets out a nervous laugh and turns towards the audience. “I had vows written, I promise, but right now I’m completely too overwhelmed to speak them.” The guests chuckle along; it’s obvious to everyone that Sehun’s nerves are on edge. Then he turns back to you, giving you a shy smile as he takes your hands in his once more. You rub your thumbs over the his knuckles reassuringly, though you yourself are trying to keep it together as you watch Sehun struggle valiantly with maintaining composure.
Sehun sniffs, clearly experiencing a wave of emotion, and turns his eyes skyward. He allows his eyes to rest upon space for a few meaningful heartbeats. Everyone knows what it means to him. When his eyes meet yours again, his gaze is confident and clear.
“I wrote my vows during my first month on Mars,” he admits, and chuckles a bit when he hears touched gasps ripple through the audience. “I know, right? Cheesy.” You grin at him, suddenly shy under the intensity of his stare. “I’ve practiced them so often that I have them memorized, but for some reason I can’t say those words now — there are other things I want to tell you, so many multitudes that you don’t yet know.” Sehun watches with great curiosity as you bite your lip, trying to keep it from trembling. “The time I spent apart from you — twice — felt like a lifetime. But after each lifetime, I knew I had to you to come back to, and it made all the waiting worth it. Thank you for showing me your patience and your willingness to fight through the odds for us, and also for your faith in my ability to keep my promise to return.”
He heaves a loud sigh, then adjusts where he stands. His spine straightens, and he tugs you a few inches forward to be nearly pressed up against him.
“Today I’m making a very different promise. First, I promise not to leave you for space again —“ (Clearly, he’s going for crowd-pleasing jokes to assuage his ego). “— rather, I promise to forever be by your side, through whatever life throws at us, to be with the family we’re so excited to build in the coming years. I know the entire world now knows I call you my North Star because I let it slip in that one interview, but I’ve always meant it. You are not only my home, but my way home, and the point toward which my axis turns.
“When you handed me your sidekick in 2010, I had no idea I was giving my phone number to my future wife. But you can bet I felt something when I saved my name as ‘Sehun! Space man! Same dorm floor!’ as a means of making sure you remembered me. I didn’t know we’d end up getting together barely two months later, or that we’d get to experience all that we have together. I think, though, in that moment I somehow knew, deep down inside, that I was meant to be guided to you and by you. Always. So…” He pauses to squeeze your hands. “Whatever marriage is supposed to mean — all of it and everything that happens within it — I will be here for it, and for you, and good luck trying to get rid of me.”
This time, you laugh before your guests do, but it’s a sort of laugh-cry that has you mock-punching him right beneath his boutonniere. His hand is instantly at your cheek, thumb grazing over the corner of your eye to catch the tear before it falls. You barely hear murmur of sentimentality as you struggle to recall your own vows, and you can feel your smile faltering on your face as you are faced with the totality of your future with the man you will forever love.
“I vow to never get rid of you,” you tell him, partly because you know he’d appreciate the humor, but because you can’t remember your vows at all, either. “So kiss me already, yeah?” You turn to glance at the Junmyeon for approval; he merely raises his eyebrows and waves his hand to give Sehun the permission to kiss his bride. (As soon as the vows portion began, Junmyeon had already noticed Sehun losing his ability to recite the vows they’d rehearsed in private, and gave up on the rest of the ceremony’s script).
Sehun needs no prompting as he pulls you those last few centimeters to him with an arm around your back and his hand at your neck. He closes the distance eagerly, giving you a kiss that reminds you of so many others and also promises so much more. The kiss goes on for a few more seconds than even you anticipated, but when you pull away even a half-millimeter, Sehun asks for more with a deft swipe of his tongue. Normally you’d be embarrassed, pushing him away with a laugh of mock-disgust — especially with the whistles going through the crowd. But just when you’re about to break away and scold him with a swat of your bouquet, you feel him smile against your lips. Sehun withdraws, gazes down into your eyes, then pecks you just once more, for good measure. Next to you, Junmyeon rolls his eyes, but he shrugs it off and announces your marriage to your guests, ending with a very dad-like “now, let’s party!” (You hear his kids groaning from the second row, but Sehun leans in for another kiss before you turn to grin at them). People get up from their seats and come towards you to give their congratulations, and you tuck yourself neatly into Sehun’s side as you smile in a happiness you think might never wear off.
Later, well after the sun sets and your guests (and you) have all gone home, you curl up on your couch with your wedding dress on. Honeymoon hotel be damned; you were perfectly happy to spend your first night married in the home you intended to be stay married in. You tug the skirt and drape it over your tucked legs; who knew wedding dresses made such excellent blankets? Behind you, the stretch of sofa fabric is empty — no longer is there a jacket strewn over it for sentimentality or for longing.
Sehun trudges in, a sight to behold as he’s already shedded his suit jacket and dress shirt, but still dons his plain white under-tee tucked into his expensive, tailored dress pants. You stifle a laugh at the sight, lifting your hand to cover your mouth. He grins at the glint of your wedding band on your finger, his gait becoming jauntier as he saunters over to you.
“Like what you see, Mrs. Oh?”
“Don’t call me that,” you snipe. “But yes, very much. It suits you.”
He looks down at himself, then lifts his head back up. One strand of destabilized hair falls from the where the rest of his ‘do is held up by hairspray, and it takes you back to one of your college formals. In the shirt, he looks like he’s milling about on a random weeknight at home and ready to head to bed (though, in all fairness, that’s exactly what he’s doing). You’ve always loved the little incongruences that add up to Sehun. He’s always been unerringly himself, someone who exudes a much more intense air by looks than by personality.
Flopping down onto the sofa, he pulls you into his arms and holds you tight. Your dog barks happily, glad to have the crowds all gone and just his parents at home like any normal day, though he jumps up onto the expanse of your wedding dress with dirty paws.
You shush Sehun with a kiss; there’s no need for scoldings today. “It’ll dry clean,” you murmur against his lips, and a thrill goes up his spine at the way your voice sounds when you begin to get distracted by his proximity.
“Oh?” He turns, resting his shoulder against the cushion and sliding a warm hand from your collarbone to your neck.
“Yup,” you hum, leaning in to draw another kiss from his lips. “On Earth, you see, we’re a very civilized folk and have many amenities.”
“Ah,” Sehun’s voice is low and measured. When he pulls away from you, his gaze is sure. “I see.” His lips tug into a slow smile. He scoots forward, pressing into you and pulling you into him with a hand at your waist. “I hear you have these wonderful modern technologies called beds? And I’m told they’re far more comfortable than cots in research bunkers, and that they often have room for two…”
You blink at him then, resisting the urge to laugh at Sehun’s sass. But you find this easier to do than anticipated, because Sehun fixes you with such a heady look that nearly has you making a mad dash to the bedroom.
“That we do,” you say carefully. It’s clear by your tone that you’re no longer that invested in the banter. “And I think you should take me to one.”
“Say no more,” Sehun replies breezily, collecting you in his arms as he stands up. He ignores your little yelp of surprise and instead hoists you up higher so you can wrap your arms around his neck. He purses his lips in request, and you happily oblige, leaning in to kiss him as he navigates to your bedroom expertly. He passes through the doorway, expertly closing the door behind you to temporarily lock Vivi out. You’re dumped unceremoniously onto the bed with little more than a cocksure grin, but you’re not left there for long before deft fingers begin exploring beneath your skirts.
Outside, Vivi gives the door a grimace. Without a witness to his indignance, he settles for resting by the door. He can wait a little longer to sleep at the foot of his parents’ bed, because he knows, somehow, that his father will be there everyday from today onward.
Warning: Contains mature, sensitive content. Please read at your own risk.
Baekhyun and Reader
‘I am worried about you! You may be hungry or hurt!’
“Boss, as you have expected, Baekhyun is bringing the girl there. I have watched them carefully; they have returned to their home now” a voice is reporting what he just saw. “They spent their time together at the pasture this hour and just return home? Good job Lay…. Hahaha…. Now, all we need is the right time to kill Baekhyun. Now we also know…. that the girl is his weakness….” the boss ponders.
“But, boss. Isn’t that now is the mating season? Then he must be stronger to fight with all of us. Usually, during mating season, we will be stronger to protect our loved ones, right? If Chen, Xiumin and Sehun are also with him, then we will have no match….” However, the voice interrupts by the boss. “Geez, Lay! You coward!! If you are so scared to fight him, just die!!” the boss’ eyes turn red and sharp claws raised, ready to kill Lay.
“Suho, stop! You won’t get anything if you kill Lay. May I remind you of what happened to our three late, poor soul brothers? It’s because of the other pack, they were gone. Our mission is to kill Baekhyun and the rest of Xiumin’s pack, then conquer this forest, remember?” Another voice comes toward them. Suho, the boss, finally calms down. He motions Lay to leave and turns to the other voice. “So…. Tell me, Kai. What is your plan?” Suho inquires.
Kai takes a deep breath. “So, you also noticed that night, that Baekhyun suddenly became stronger, right? I believe he has chosen that human girl to be his mate. But, that girl is only a human. She cannot do anything. One bite and she’s gone. Though they outnumbered four to us five, they are still stronger, especially now Baekhyun seems to found his mate, he would do anything to protect her. So, if you want to get rid of Xiumin’s pack and dominate this area, you need to take her away first. Baekhyun can protect himself, but it will be a burden to protect two, right?” Kai explains to Suho.
Suho ponders a while. “Good idea Kai, but how are we going to kidnap the girl? We know now that she is heavily guarded. Their strengths are no joke too” Suho tries to discuss the situation. “I must take revenge for our three late brothers” he continues.
“Can I suggest you something, Suho? A new voice comes. Suho motions him to continue. “I have watched them for some time. The pack usually leaves the house at night for a night patrol. Most of the nights, one will stay and guards the girl, while the rest of them are patrolling, but on a few nights, I’ve been watching…. They left her alone in the house too. Although they just leave in a short time, with our number, a few of us could distract them, while the rest of us can invade the house and kill the girl. I think tonight is the time where Baekhyun stays since a few nights ago was Chen and Sehun. Maybe tomorrow or after tomorrow she will be left alone so we can kill her….” but Suho gestures to him to stop.
“No, Chanyeol, no. Let the girl live. She could be a…. ‘good use’ for us too; since now it is the mating season…. Oh, I feel so horny nowadays…. We need someone new, fresh and young too if we wanted to continue our legacy. Now, let’s wait for a good time to abduct this girl, then destroy Xiumin’s pack once and for all. I can’t stand knowing them dominating this place consistently” Suho emits a horror laugh as he leaves Kai and Chanyeol alone.
Meanwhile, back to the Xiumin’s pack….
You and Baekhyun safely arrived home when you realise that nobody is in the house at the moment.
“Hm? The house is empty. Where are they going?” You look for them but couldn’t find them anywhere in the house. You continue searching upstairs, while Baekhyun follows you closely at the back. “Do you usually follow others around this close?” you simply ask, and he chuckles. You glare at him when he hears your stomach grumbling. He chortles, then leads you to the kitchen. When both of you are preparing dinner, Xiumin, Chen and Sehun finally show up.
“Speak of the devil. How do you know I am preparing for dinner? Now that all of you are here, let’s have dinner before sleep” and they just laugh hearing what you just said. “Were you worried about us, Cutie?” Sehun gets close and pinches your cheeks. “Yes, Cutie! I am worried about you! You may be hungry or hurt! Come! Let’s have dinner together!” you play along with Sehun when you hear someone clears his throat. “Stop it, two of you, really….” Baekhyun separates you and Sehun from playing along further.
You take a seat at the table and have dinner. “Thank you for your care, Y/N. Actually… We just came back from the town” Chen responds. “Town? So you deal with….” You surprised. Chen just nods. “It’s hard to explain our lives. But yeah, like we ever said before, we usually appear in human form and only in wolf form when in danger. So…. to some extent, we still need to live like, normal humans do” Xiumin adds. You have no further questions and continue dinner with them. They help you clean the dishes, then you go to the shower before calling it a night.
You just come out from the shower when Baekhyun stands in front of the bathroom. He pushes you back to the shower. “Baekhyun! What are you doing?” you try not to panic. “I want to have a shower with you….” but you simply scoff. “You should tell me earlier. I have finished my bath, so if you’ll excuse me, I need some sleep now” but both of his hands block your path. “No, my lady. I cannot let you go. What if you go and tease Sehun with the cutie thing again?” He talks while simply taking off his clothes and begins showering. You gulp as you could see him naked, but tries to keep your composure.
“I smell jealousy here…. Come on…. I was just joking around with Sehun. There’s nothing to worry about….” but Baekhyun takes your towel off, then pulls you back to the shower with him. “There is something that needs to be worried about. If you get close to him, what about me? We have spent time together at the pasture though. Does that explain my jealousy?” you could see his pouts, making you giggle. He feels happy seeing you smile. He gets closer to you, cups your face, and slowly kisses you.
You decided to kiss him back while placing your hands around his neck to pull him closer. “Can I claim you as my mate from now on? I want you to myself. I don’t care if you are human, I mean…. I really, fall in love with you now” as he breaks the kiss and looks at you. “Well, I would love to be your mate, if you take me out from this shower. Gosh, where’s the towel?” he chuckles after seeing your reaction. “You won’t need the towel now” with his werewolf strength, he easily carries you to his bedroom, then locks the door so that no one can interrupt your privacy tonight.
He gently places you on his bed, stroking your head. You cup his face, admiring his masculine feature. “You’re so beautiful” Baekhyun adores you; starts kissing again from your lips to your earlobe, then down to your neck. At this moment, his kisses go lower to your collarbone and chest. He leans down and sucks one of your nipples, while you let out a moan. “Ohh…..” He continues licking and sucking the other side, while sweetly circling the other ones. “Baekhyun, hmm, hmm….. so good, ohh….”
You extend your hand and gradually stroke his member down below, and he emits a manly grunt. You pleasure each other while whimpering together. You don’t care about the others who may have to listen to your sensual activity, all you want now is to enjoy your new love with Baekhyun. Meanwhile, Baekhyun continues going down on you, maintaining in slow motion, while enjoying each part of your body.
He continues kissing your inner thigh, then later goes down to the opening of your sensitive clit. “So wet for me, um….” and he licks your sweet spot, making you moan louder. He wrapped his arms around your legs, burying his face in your delicious folds. You are getting wetter, making him excited more. He licks and moves his tongue around your clit. “Ohh…. Ohh…. Baekhyun, right there…. Umm, umm, OHH, umm…..” You moan loudly. As you are feeling tension builds up, he tastes your juicy wetness more. “AHH, AHH….” you finally release yourself.
You take a deep breath and open your eyes, and you could see Baekhyun is already climbing on top of you. Your hands reach for his hard shaft when he takes your hands and pins them above your head. “We can do that later. I want to feel inside you now” he rubs his cock against your already wet pussy. You moan together, as you feel the tip of his cock hit the opening of your clit. You kiss him passionately, while he spreads your thighs, and then guides his member to be inside you with his hand.
“OHHH…. Y/N, you are so tight…. Umm…..” he groans softly as his cock fully enters you now. He moves in and out at a languid pace, sending you two to another level of affection. “Ahh…. hmm, hmm….. Baekhyun….” you feel so good as he moves his hips along. “Umm…. Y/N…. hmm, hmm….” he leans down and kisses you, as you keep humming. At one time, he moves harder, increasing the intensity of the pleasure within you. “Harder! Ahh!” You said, closing your eyes. “You like it, hmm….?” and he thrusts in and out, harder. “AHHH! OHHH!” You grunt, and immediately your second orgasm reached with a shiver goes down your spine. “OHH! That feels so good, umm….” as Baekhyun keeps moving, still has much energy.
“Baekhyun…. Go…. faster…. Um….” you wrap your legs around him, as you feel another tension building within you. Baekhyun grunting, accelerates his movement, making you scream with intensity. A few more thrusts and you finally reach your climax together, his cock twitches inside you. Both of you panting, and he lay side to side with you but didn’t pull his member out from you.
“Let’s sleep like this tonight” as he gives a hot smooch on your lips. “Naughty” you smile. “Good night, my mate, my sweetheart” he hugs you tightly, and then both of you drift to a peaceful sleep.
After a few hours of lovely slumber with your new love, Baekhyun, a ray of light shines through the window. Baekhyun wakes up first, enjoying the light slanting through the window. He immediately sees you and smiles to himself. He smells a beautiful sensuality in the morning. Since you two are still connected down below, he tries not to move too much, while gently running his fingers through your hair, enjoying the scent of you.
He lets out a soft groan when you are moving, and you feel his member is already hard. “I sense…. a morning wood” you smirk with eyes still closed. “I am….” he pulls you closer. He put one of your legs up, and while in the spoon position, he starts to move in and out from you again. “Umm….” you moan softly. He kisses you while fondling your breasts. Once more, you are drowned in his affection.
You are getting wetter when he started to speed up the tempo of him thrusting in and out from you. You two cannot help yourself but let out a scream from the pleasure. He flips you, with him now on top, he pins your arms above and he hammers down with his strength. “AHH! OHH!! BAEKHYUN!! AHH!!” His acceleration makes you arch your back and eventually squirt while quivering so much from the pleasure. He then reaches his orgasm right after, spilling his warm juice inside of you again.
You two are kissing each other while getting your high down. “Oh, no. I mess up your bed” you get panic when you see his bed is wet. “I’m sorry, I will help you change this now” you want to get up, but Baekhyun stops you. “Stay…. we can do that later, let’s sleep some more” he hugs you tightly. “The sun is shining, Baekhyun. It’s getting hot….” but he cuts you off with a kiss, and eventually you continue your sleep in each other’s arms again.
You and Baekhyun missed the breakfast after taking more sleep. You finally woke up, and sluggishly go to shower while Baekhyun is still sleeping. You head to the kitchen and notice Xiumin preparing for lunch assisted by Sehun. “Good morning…. Where’s Chen?” but they answer you with a laugh.
“Our cutie had a good sleep with our Baekhyun hyung last night? You don’t even realise it’s already afternoon” Sehun pats your head. “What???? It’s already in the afternoon?? Sorry!! I must be too tired….” You try making excuses, but Xiumin only lets out a chuckle. “Y/N, we are werewolves. We have good ears. We know what you did last night and this early morning. No need to be embarrassed” and you flush when hearing him.
“Baekhyun hyung is lucky! He got his mate already! Hyung! Bring me to the town next week! I want to find my human mate too! I don’t want to miss the season this time” Sehun clings his arms towards Xiumin. “Hey! Don’t disturb me! I’m cooking!” and you only chortle watching them bickering with each other.
“Wait, what season are you talking about?” you suddenly recalled what Sehun spoke just now. “Oh. That. Well, we have our mating season every year. When the mating season comes, our, chemicals or what you call…. hormones in the body will raise and…. and yeah. If we could find one, and fall in love, we will… yeah, mate…. and…. yeah” and Xiumin knocks on Sehun’s head after hearing his unclear explanations. “It’s okay, I think I understand that part…. But what happens if you don’t mate?” your curiosity intensifies.
“Nothing. It will be just another normal day. However, danger comes when one started to find his mate. In this case, you are in danger. Since Baekhyun has claimed you…. we need to protect you more since you are human too, otherwise…. A normal human like you is simply vanquished by the other pack. Worst, they could use you for their own nasty thing” Xiumin explains.
“Oh…. You suddenly feel upset by the situation. “I’m sorry for coming here and giving you trouble though….” You continue. “Oh no! I don’t mean that you need to leave this place. You may stay as long as you want. It’s just that, you need to be careful. Probably you need to stick closer to Baekhyun more” Chen slides into the conversation. “Told you Cutie! You’ll be the one who needs space from Baekhyun now” he grins, then Chen and Xiumin hit him, but Sehun just laughs.
“I wonder…. Has he ever mated with other female humans, or female werewolves before?” you ask them, but you hear a familiar voice gets closer thus hugging you from the back. “No. We tend to find a mate once in our lives, although there is a mating season that comes every year. Werewolves are loyal creatures in the first place, so we either ask our mates to stay with us for extra protection, or they can start their new pack. But it doesn’t mean that when starting the new pack, we don’t need to see each other again or fight with other packs for domination or something. We are not like some humans, who deceive others for their own evil needs” Baekhyun answers.
“That is correct. But for our case, the other pack will do just like some humans did; betray and do bad things that would only satisfy themselves” Xiumin adds, sighs, and continues.
I feel so bad over not posting anything the last two years. Covid was hectic and impacted a lot more of my life than I had expected.
It's still no excuse for not posting, however. I know there were people who wanted to read Silver Wings and some who were even interested in my Ten fic. I won't lie. I lowkey live in shame over not posting.
This is a message to say that I'll be back and posting sometime in June (sorry for making you wait longer🙏🙏🙏)
With love and a respectful "I-live-in-shame", I wish all who see this a wonderful upcoming month and prosperity in their work/exams🤍🤍🤍
Synopsis: With memories taken away from you by the deities as a punishment for your past sins, you spend the next 1000 years paying for them by collecting souls of the dead and guiding them to their final judgment; heaven or hell. When a black envelope containing the name of your last soul, the most painful one, lands in your hand you feel conflicted. Your life on Earth is coming to an end and so is the life of Kim Taehyung, the heir of one of the most powerful families in Korea.
Warnings: mentions of death, blood
Chapters 1 I Chapter 2 I Chapter 3 I Chapter 4 I Chapter 5
Your nails click against the wine glass before the rim touches your red lips. A frown appears on your face when the bitter taste drips down your throat. With your free hand, you trace the photo delivered by a lost soul for you to find on your porch this morning.
Just like the wine, the name itself leaves a bitter taste in your mouth even more so after his whole charade. You twirl the photo in the air, biting your lip. Weeks passed since your last encounter. You visited the hospital under the false pretence to be sick, but it was of no avail. Jimin took a leave and hasn’t come back or at least that’s what the nurse kept telling you whenever you called.
Jungkook huffs as he drops the heavy box containing the last of his belongings. “So, when is the truck coming tomorrow to move our belongings?”
You snort, rolling your eyes. “It’s not coming.”
With a snap of your fingers, the picture burns and the ashes fall onto the ground. Jungkook scratches the back of his head. “Are we even moving tomorrow? Did you have a change of heart?”
“Of course not, we are moving tomorrow. There is only much you can stay before people start to notice you haven’t aged,” you drink the last bits of wine and put the glass on the table before jumping off the sofa, “but I am not paying one million won for something I can do with just a wave of my finger.”
“I guess that makes sense. Just this morning Mrs Choi asked me for the special formula we use to keep our flowers alive.” Jungkook laughs while you roll your eyes.
Mrs Choi was one of the nosiest neighbours who at first was bothersome but later posed to be somewhat of a threat because of her constant snooping around. It only amplified when Jungkook moved. It took a month for her to drop the subject of Jungkook’s relation to you.
“Should’ve told her it’s magic,” You pretend to throw confetti at Jungkook who snorts, “She already thinks we are part of some cult after having a conversation with Yoongi.”
“She and Yoongi spoke?” Jungkook grins leaning against the door frame.
You chuckle remembering the encounter. “More like she tried to talk with Yoongi who insulted her by calling her a mundane pest.”
“Sounds like something Yoongi would say. By the way, I know you can use your abilities to spare us the extra work, but people will find it suspicious if the moving truck never comes. They’ll know something is up.” You raise your brow at Jungkook who gives you a questioning look before you grab the glass and turn around heading to the kitchen.
“How will they know?” You set the glass into the sink reaching for the cardboard box nested underneath it.
“They will know, plus Yugyeom told me people nowadays are more obsessed with mystery and reapers than they were before. Jaehyun also confirmed this after he saw a TikTok video.” Jungkook fires back as you enter the room putting all the papers from the table into the small box.
“Yugyeom? Jaehyun? TikTok?” You wrinkle your nose in confusion.
“Reapers I met during orientation day. Jaehyun is under Hoseok’s mentorship,” you halt for a second finding it odd that Hoseok had young apprentices let alone that they engage into conversation with other reapers, “and Yugyeom works for Namjoon. TikTok is a social media all the young people use.”
“Orientation day? And did you just call me old?” You couldn’t help but feel flabbergasted at the information Jungkook was throwing.
He puffs a strand of hair that escaped from his perfectly slid back hair. “I mean after the ceremony and everything you have an orientation day where they tell you in detail what your duty will be and so on. Didn’t you have one? And yes, you are one thousand years old sorry to break to you.”
You scoff biting your tongue to prevent yourself from spitting some rude words. “I assume this was Namjoon’s doing. No, I was given an assignment and expected to have it done. And we died at the same age idiot, I just happened to be born in a different era.”
Sensing the tensed atmosphere, he quickly changes the subject by nodding his head in the direction of the box you just closed shut. “I thought you gave the case a rest as Seokjin instructed you.
You glance at it and remember its content; Jimin’s schedule printed on a big sheet of paper next to a map of Seoul covered in red dots, his latest locations according to the lost souls. Seokjin suggested you give it a rest until they find a better solution Yoongi however, asked for you to try to find the reasoning behind Jimin’s involvement because for a goblin to take interest in a human is rare.
“Honestly, I am trying to make peace with the idea of having to wait for another sixty to seventy years before leaving.” You sit on the floor next to the box as Jungkook observes you closely.
“Surely you won’t have to wait for him to die of old age. Life expectancy has dropped drastically, people hardly make it to the age of sixty now.” He tries to lighten up the mood with a chuckle.
“Did Jaehyung or Yugyeom tell you that? Or perhaps Tok or whatever you just mentioned.” He rolls his eyes but smiles,” When a goblin revives someone, they give a piece of their soul hence why Taehyung is under Jimin’s protection. Having a goblin’s protection means that the soul will be protected until it dies of old age or the Goblin’s bride appears.”
Jungkook’s eyes widen slightly at the mention of the Goblin bride not knowing that the legend was true.
“Some reapers mentioned it not long ago after the incident with Taehyung happened. You know word travels fast,” his cheeks take on a shade of red as the embarrassment was evident when he continues, “However, they brushed it off as a myth because not much is known about her. How do we find the bride?”
“It’s more complicated than that.”
Jungkook furrows his brows. “If we find the bride and he marries her that’s it? He’s free and you can take Taehyung’s soul?”
You shake your head laughing as you remember what Yoongi and Namjoon told after one urgent meeting. “I mean she is a bride in theory, in practice it’s different. Also, I am not a soul stealer but a reaper we do have laws. I can’t just kill him off and be done with it.”
“You know what I mean. But what’s the bride’s purpose?” his gaze feels somewhat interrogating and a part of you wants to keep the information to yourself as per Yoongi suggestion but another one does see Jungkook as your partner no matter how opposed you felt at first.
“Goblins serve a sentence of their own you know that. A bride is needed to set them free of the immortal life and essentially the sins. To set Jimin free the bride needs to pull the sword out of his chest. Such bride appears every thousand years.” You exhale at the last sentence.
Jungkook seems conflicted at the revelation. “Which means you have to wait for Taehyung to die of old age if the bride doesn’t appear?”
You nod and he closes his eyes mumbling some words before he taps your shoulder awkwardly albeit lovingly.
“How will we know if she appeared?”
“Usually the lost souls feel her presence but so far they haven't heard anything. They are as clueless as I am.” You whisper trying to gather your thoughts when Jungkook claps startling you.
“On a lighter note, what is the location of the new house we are moving into?” Jungkook nestles himself on the sofa in front of you tugging a pillow underneath his head for support.
You pull your phone from the pocket of your jeans scrolling through the conversations you had with the landlord. You chose Byun Baekhyunat at the suggestion of Hoseok who deemed him as trustworthy for he doesn’t ask much nor requires a lot of paperwork like other landlords. Ever since meeting him, you came to two realizations, he was a high-profile person, two he was a walking scandal gracing the headlines of many gossip magazines.
"It is on the upper side of the town among the luxurious neighbourhoods. Yoongi thought it would decrease the chances of stumbling upon one of our previous neighbours.” You swipe through the conversation, looking for the time Baekhyun suggested you come.
“What’s the cover-up this time?”
You look at him, half-asleep snuggled against the pillow. “I went for the brother and sister one.”
He hums as his fingers trace the pattern of the sofa. “If the souls are correct, Jimin seems to spend an awful lot of time in the upper part. Is that perhaps your reason for the choice of the location?”
Your eyes follow the movement of his fingers. “Surprisingly, I’ve never given much thought about it. It would make sense if he lived there after all Taehyung surely owns an apartment there and Jimin has lived long enough to be able to afford one too.”
Just as Jungkook was about to respond the screen of your phone lit up, a text message showing up in your notification centre.
Just to confirm that you are coming tomorrow at 12 pm.
“We needed to be there at noon. Try to ease it with the games tonight.” You lightly tap his head with your phone and leave the room and head towards your bedroom.
Before you close the door, you hear some commotion and a sigh followed by loud footsteps. Jungkook drags his body across the hallway into his room, closing the door lightly.
“I am not paying one million won for something I can do with just a wave of my finger, and then proceeds to use public transport to go to the house,” Jungkook whines loudly ignoring the stares of people around you.
The train stops abruptly, and a man pushes his way through the mass, stomps on Jungkook’s shoes and in the process causes Jungkook to lose footing and fall directly into an old woman’s lap. He apologizes cowering behind you immediately, in a desperate attempt to avoid the glare of the woman.
“I wanted you to experience some human things.” Your grip on the pole tightens as the train goes off.
He sulks leaning his forehead against your shoulder. “Are we going to address the elephant in the room? I am positive Jimin has a car that he uses for transport, not the underground.”
You scoff jerking your shoulder away so he would remove his head. “You think my world revolves around Park Jimin.”
“Yes. At least now it does since he’s connected to Taehyung.” You lightly punch his shoulder as he gasps grabbing the attention of onlookers.
“Stop abusing me for stating the truth.”
“Stop sputtering nonsense and I won’t.”
“You were the one who started with the nonsense, teaching me mundane things as if we are normal people who live normal lives.”
You turn to him hoping that the stare would give him the hint to drop it before you would literarily zip his mouth.
“You know this is the part where you kiss the main protagonist according to the movies Yugyeom and I watched.” He cheekily whispers.
“Do you want me to ask for a transfer? I can give the papers to Seokjin to assign you to Yugyeom.” You reply with a small smile which Jungkook deems as creepy before he shakes his head sending you his signature grin.
The train stops at your station, and you exhale as you make your way out to the platform with Jungkook’s hand gripping your blazer so he wouldn’t get lost in the mass. This part of Seoul was vastly unfamiliar to you although you’ve spent a good amount of fifteen years living in this city. In the distance, a red sports car captures your attention. Baekhyun is leaning against it typing away on his phone with an occasional giggle escaping his lips. In any other situation you would’ve declined the free ride he offered but the strict policy of the neighbourhood prevented you from entering the estate without the owner of the house accompanying you for the first time, some sort of assurance of your identity.
Baekhyun notices, waving enthusiastically. “Hi, it’s nice to see you again. You must be the brother. I am Byun Baekhyun.”
Jungkook catching a liking to Baekhyun who emitted the same vibe as him shakes his hand flashing him a smile. “Jungkook, nice to meet you too.”
“Shall we get going?” he motions to the car, Jungkook already hoping in the front seat grinning like a child.
Taking a seat back you look through the window as you pass the expensive houses. It wasn’t like you couldn’t afford all the luxurious things life had to offer, working as a reaper for thousand years earned you enough money to buy all these houses but the life you led prevented you from pampering yourself. Yoongi was someone who worked from the shadows and as such lived a life full of modesty, unlike Hoseok who basked in designer clothing. Some of your mentor’s attitude rubbed off on you and living an average life provided comfort and ensured safety from being discovered. People loved to gossip and dig information and if you stay low and out of their sight guaranteed a peaceful life.
Baekhyun stops in front of a white house far larger than the one you and Jungkook previously lived at. He exits the car leading you into a huge garden decorated with flowers and bushes high enough to prevent curious gazes. Entering the foyer, you are greeted with a modern minimalistic design that fits well with the exterior of the house. For a split second, you understood Hoseok’s thirst for posh things.
“Take a look around the house. Make yourself at home while I fetch us some refreshing tea.” He pats Jungkook on the back before disappearing.
Jungkook grabs your forearm shaking you slightly. “I don’t know where you found this guy, but I am already in love with this house.”
“Hoseok suggested him, “you shake off his hand and walk around the living room feeling so foreign and small and in such a large space.
Jungkook shoots you a puzzled look before his attention drifts to the huge pool visible from the floor-to-ceiling windows. “I can almost kiss you how happy I am.”
“I’m good thanks.” You mumble when you hear footsteps coming from the lobby.
Your head snaps towards the sound as a figure enters the room. Park Jimin strolls inside the house not paying close attention to the guests having a tour through his house. Not that he expected any guests to be frank. However, when he does notice you standing in the middle of the room with a very surprised Jungkook behind, he wished he prolongued his walk. Perhaps that would’ve saved him the unpleasant encounter.
He stops in his tracks, a part of him ready to fight. “What are you doing in my house?”
You raise a brow unable to withhold the surprise. “You live here?”
Before Jimin can answer Baekhyun’s voice cut through the room. “You will love the garden, especially the po-“
The sight of Jimin Baekhyun’s voice flattens, the charming salesman's personality slowly diminishing. “When did you come back, uncle Jimin?”
“Uncle?” you splutter.
Jimin ignores your question as he reaches for the cup of tea on the tray Baekhyun was holding. “Explain.”
“The house was supposed to be vacant for twenty years and you know how much money we could get by charging monthly rent.” His voice grows quiet as Jimin throws him a stare.
“Do you even know who that is?” Jimin angrily points towards you and for a second you feel offended that he excluded Jungkook,” that thing over there.”
“Don’t talk to our tenant like that. She owns a tea house.” Baekyhun whispers pulling Jimin by the sleeve of his jumper hoping the latter would behave more mannerly.
Jimin scoffs at the mention of the tea house as Baekyhun turns towards you.” Uncle tends to be a little reserved towards newcomers.”
Your lack of expression stirs a new wave of nervousness in Baekyhun before he leans into Jimin, whispering: “She didn’t pay yet.”
Jimin already fed up with the behaviour of the guy moves away gesturing to the front doors. “I suppose the sports car magically fell from the sky?”
“The rent is already paid in full amount.” You say to which Jimin reacts by shooing Baekhyun away making the latter bows rather awkwardly and run away from his piercing gaze.
“You don’t want to mess with a goblin,” Jimin warns his eyes holding unfounded hatred.
You pull out the contract pushing it to his face. “It’s already signed.”
With the tip of his fingers, the paper in your hands begins to burn, ashes crumbling to the floor. Rolling your eyes at the goblin’s dramatic antics you cross your arms having enough of the attitude. “This was a copy. The real estate agent has the original.”
“I’ve given you more than enough of my time. Leave now.” He takes a step closer, the move although intimidating in his mind only draws a laugh from you.
“You know what signing a contract with a reaper means, right? How about I take him instead of the house?” your reply makes Jimin stumble back as Jungkook gawks at you.
He stands there observing as you don’t’ deter even the slightest bit under his threatening gaze. The silence is defying making the tension high enough it could be cut with a knife. After a minute Jimin exhales in defeat running a hand through his hair, the frustration clear on his face.
“Take whichever room you want but if you think you can come in and kick me out you have another thing coming.” He says as he walks past you and upstairs.
You take a moment to compose yourself never being in a situation where you blackmailed a person with someone’s life. Jungkook however does a little victory dance around you.
He leans down to your level both hands holding on each of your shoulders holding you captive. “Y/N did we just win the lottery?”
“Can you stop with the touchy-feely moments? It’s making me uncomfortable” This seems to fly over his head as he lets go of you and runs upstairs ready to claim one of the vacant rooms.
You decided to head to the kitchen to ironically brew some tea, mentally cursing Hoseok for creating this unintentional mess of a situation. You open the cupboard and reach for whatever bag of tea there was. Seeing a familiar metallic round box, you push aside the rest and slowly begin to prepare the water. Opening it you take a few spoons of the matcha powder and spill it into the small teacup whisking the content until it took a smooth green texture.
As you take a sip Jimin enters the room, the atmosphere immediately dropping not that you were emitting happy energy after everything that happened but having him around dampened your mood. You ignore the obvious daggers he was throwing your way as he reaches around you to grab a bottle of juice. For a second you question your decision to stay but your pride was at stake and so was your hard-earned money. The silence occupys the kitchen as each one of you did their thing.
Placing the cup into the sink you think of a way to approach him and ask for simple matters such as billing and groceries but before you can even ask the goblin disappears without a trace.
“And they say reapers are dramatic.”
Park Jimin questioned the day he brought Taehyung back to life. Ever since the young man realised he could summon the goblin by blowing out a candle he’s been abusing it. Jimin couldn’t even count how many times he was called for stupid things such as a spider is on my wall, does my outfit look good or is it too much, I am lonely let’s go watch the sunset.
The list was never-ending and quite honestly Jimin was debating about giving him up to the reaper.
“I swear if you summoned me to assist you with another wardrobe malfunction, I will burn all of your last year’s Gucci blazer collection,” Jimin yells as he strides through Taehyung’s flat.
“That was one time and it was an important occasion, stop crying about it.” Taehyung walks out of the bathroom dressed in sweatpants and a hoodie, drying his damp hair with a pink towel.
He gives Jimin one of his signature boxy smiles and the older man scoffs crossing his arms. “I won’t watch the Notebook again. Call your girlfriend for that one, I’m leaving.”
Taehyung leaps forward slithering his arm around Jimin’s elbow as he leads him to the living room. “As tempting as that is I didn’t call you for that. I have a proposal for you.”
“That doesn’t sound good.” Taehyung looks offended for a second before he shrugs it off with a smile.
Once they enter the spacious living room, he unhooks his arms from underneath Jimin’s and heads towards the cabin supplied with various costly alcohol drinks. “I’ve been thinking-“
“That doesn’t sound good”
Taehyung turns suddenly shooting a mischievous glare. “You know how lonely I am-“
“Very much so.” Jimin takes a seat on the cosy sofa, the only thing he grew to like in this apartment.
“Ya would you let me finish,” Taehyung protests and Jimin disregards his annoyance with a wave of his hand, a sign for him to resume,” An idea came to my mind. We work so well as a team. You and I, so what do you think about us being roommates?”
Jimin does a double-take just to be sure he heard him right. “Excuse me?”
He hopes Taehyung burst laughing calling it a park and a funny jab at his stony personality, but he never expects his smile to flatten. Suddenly he took a better look at him and noticed the small fragments which showed cracks in Taehyung happy go lucky façade. The bags under his eyes were more pronounced as he put the glass of whiskey in front of Jimin before he took the seat on the opposite side.
Taehyung plays with his drink for a second and then swallows it in one go. “I understand I might’ve been clingy but gosh. I see them everywhere Jimin. I know we agreed to ignore them and you’ve helped me so much but I just can’t shake them off.”
Jimin tilts forward comprehending quite well how he felt. Taehyung glances up at the ceiling exhaling loudly as he tries to lighten the mood with a chuckle.
“Mina asked for a break,” Jimin’s stare moves from the drink towards Taehyung, “she said I changed a lot after the accident. She keeps pushing me to visit a doctor thinking my fear of leaving the house is connected to my accident. Little does she know I see all the ghosts flying around us when we try to go on a date. She doesn’t see them reaching out and whispering in my ear.”
He instantly brushes off the pity Jimin’s voice carried. “I am not sorrowful about the break; it was long overdue if I am being honest. I am angrier at myself for being a coward.”
As Jimin listens to him, he begins to understand why Taehyung summoned him so often. Jimin has lived this life so long that he overlooks how traumatising it must’ve been for Taehyung who never even knew supernatural beings such as goblins and reapers existed.
“I can’t believe I am saying this,” he chuckles and Taehyung joins,” but I would gladly offer you that if it were achievable.”
“If money is an issue, I am more than keen to pay for the rent.” Hearing Jimin consider his idea makes Taehyung jump from his seat and land next to him.
“It’s not the money,” Jimin shakes his head the image of Y/N standing in his living room plays in his mind, “Baekhyun decided to rent the house without consulting me beforehand.”
Taehyung stares at him as if what he told was a minor inconvenience. “So? We’ll find another one.”
Taehyung throws his hands in the air frustrated with Jimin. “It’s more like you are making it complicated.”
“He rented it to the reaper and her companion.” This shuts up Taehyung promptly.
There is a small silence as Taehyung takes in his words. He was told by Jimin how the reapers function and what would be of him now that he was under Jimin’s care so the fear of seeing Y/N again wasn’t as big as before. Taehyung thoughts raced in different directions as he calculated the pros and cons of his new idea.
“I’ll move in.” He breaks the silence and for the first time, Jimin thinks Taehyung has lost it.
“Are you insane?” Jimin counters taking a good look at him.
Taehyung claps his hands as the idea becomes more apparent in his mind. “This is the only way to get over my fear, isn’t it? I face the one thing that frightens me the most.”
“Having one near-death experience wasn’t enough for you.”
“Let me do this.” Taehyung reasons as Jimin stands up prepared to leave this nonsense of a discussion. There was no way he was about to throw him into a lion’s den just for the sake of getting over his fear.
“No is my final answer. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have things to do.”
“You selfish prick,” Taehyung yells out of the top of his lungs, “you bring me back to life knowing fully well the consequences of your action. Knowing I’ll never be able to live a normal life and never be able to confide in anyone except you. And now you are robbing me of the only chance to overcome my fear and have a shot at living my life as normal as I can.”
Jimin flounces to Taehyung fuming at his behaviour. “You want to go and live with a person who can kill you with a snap of her fingers? Are you dense?”
“Perhaps I am.” Taehyung shouts as Jimin runs a hand over his face pinching his lower lip with his thumb and index finger.
“This isn’t a game. There is no redo if you lose.” He whispers when he sees the desperation in Taehyung’s eyes.
“I am begging you.”
“I can’t guarantee your safety.”
“I am okay with that.”
Going against his better judgment Jimin crumbles under the pressure of Taehyung’s plead.
Taehyung’s vision becomes blurry, but he pushes the tip of his tongue against the palate to prevent tears from spilling. “I’ll come tonight.”
Jimin nods before leaving.
You don’t foresee Jimin coming back tonight which is why you are startled when he reappears in the middle of the dining room. The knife falls out of your hold clacking against the marble floor, the sound deafening. Jungkook unaffected by all of it continues to munch on his food.
“You know how to make a grand entrance.” You put the fork down reaching for the knife and setting it to the side.
“Well, you can’t blame me, until a few hours ago I lived alone,” Jimin remarks seeing an additional dish set on the table.
Jungkook gives him a sheepish smile. “I’ve made some extra food so I supposed you might want to try it.”
Jimin reluctantly takes a seat at the table jabbing the fork into the steak Jungkook made. You were still doubtful about the Goblin and unsure about the whole situation wanting to put some space between him and you whereas Jungkook saw this as an opportunity to expand his social circle. You shift awkwardly in the seat not used to the suffocating silence.
“So how was everyone’s day?” Jungkook speaks up causing both you and Jimin to look at him weirdly.
Again, Jungkook is oblivious to the tension determining to continue the conversation on his own. “I had a blast swimming in the pool.”
You hit him under the table wanting to eat in peace without awkwardness polluting the air. Jungkook hisses in pain shooting you a glare as you pretend not to notice.
“I was out for a stroll,” Jimin answers curtly to which Jungkook bobs his head with a smile.
“For 10 hours?” you couldn’t help but throw the comment Jimin whoever deliberately ignores it.
“How’s the food? Steak is my special dish; I call it the Reaper’s wish.” at this point you were contemplating smacking Jungkook at the back of his head.
Jimin hums his fork mid-air when the atmosphere around you began to shift. You couldn’t pinpoint what was different, but the air felt threatening and Jimin took notice of that when he looked at you. Jungkook also became silent. The tingles coursing through you were indicating incoming trouble but what made things unsettling was that neither you nor Jimin seemed to know in which form the trouble will occur. In a matter of seconds, grey smoke arose engulfing all three of you and transporting you to a dark road encircled by nothing but trees.
You stood in the middle of the lane, a car driving towards you at full speed. Jimin reacts first breaking all the streetlights and lastly, the car’s too putting it at a disadvantage. It slows down and as your eyes get accustomed to the sudden darkness you see four figures in it among them was Taehyung.
You and Jungkook follow Jimin as a blue light conjuring a large sword in his hand. Running straight towards the car he slashes it in half. Jungkook springs to the side in which Taehyung was using his power to stop it from falling. The man originally sitting in the front seat wiggles out of the wreckage trying his best to flee but with one wave of your finger, a force drops him to the ground clasping him tightly.
Jimin circles the wreckage and opens the door untangling Taehyung out of the ropes. The latter holds Jimin for dear life breathing heavily.
“Are you hurt?” Jimin asks as Taehyung gasps for air.
It takes a moment for Taehyung to regain the ability to speak before he strikes Jimin’s shoulder. “Am I hurt? Are you for real? Asking me that after cutting the damn car in half. For fuck’s sake couldn’t you just stop it like a normal human being?”
“I mean he is right.” You lean your head looking at the wreck Jimin caused.
Once Taehyung moves further away from the car Jungkook lets go of it, the wreckage falling with a loud boom. You move from the scene and go to the other two men Jungkook gathered. Squatting down careful enough not to get dirt on your jeans you lean in looking them straight in the eye.
“You will go to the police and surrender yourself, admitting the abduction and other crimes you’ve committed.”
Turning around you join Jimin, Jungkook and Taehyung ignoring the persistent tug you felt ever since laying your eyes on Taehyung. Noticing your presence, he looks at you still shivering from the events.
Summary: What could one week change in a casual friendship between a woman and a man? Sehun–the friend who unabashedly flirts and banters with you in the guise of friendship. Junmyeon–the friend who tried to woo you once, but now was just content in maintaining a casual friendship with you. When Sehun proposed a one-week relationship with you, you found yourself unearthing feelings for him you never thought were there. When Junmyeon ended up in a one-week study program abroad with you, you found yourself realizing that he just might be the guy you have been searching all your life.
But all you have is one week.
One week to figure out who is “the one”.
"So, that leaves the two of us."
What? You turned your back and looked at him, his eyes still looking down, but the smile emerging from his lips is sly and noticeable.
He must have felt your longing stare, and so he stole a momentary glace at your direction, only to meet the confusion swimming in your eyes, too.
"Oh, I mean--" Sehun clears his throat, "We're the only ones unmarried now." His emphasis on the word unmarried not lost on you.
You pursed your lips at him, shrugging your shoulders in the process. "That's life," you said curtly.
Sehun and you had just gotten home from the wedding of your friends--two of them belonging in the same circle you have since high school. This was not in fact the first marriage you have been into which involves your very close friends. A few months ago, two of your other friends--still in the same circle--had also gotten hitched, and in fact was now expecting a baby. You used to joke around that your circle mimics that of the Friends' cast, with the exact number of boys and girls. You just didn't think it would resemble the tv show so much, with the four of them coupling like Ross and Rachel, and Chandler and Monica.
Does that make us Joey and Phoebe, then? You wonder to yourself.
But one look at Sehun makes that thought disappear.
Because even before the others started liking and being in love with each other--you had them first.
You and Sehun had those familiar feelings of attraction, flirtation, and pining, first.
Which is the story you believed in your mind.
Because from the looks of reality, it appears that Sehun has an entirely different version in his head.
Sehun has always been some sort of a woman-magnet--though he does not go sleeping around like your average jock, he nevertheless has a way of getting into women's pants. Anyone who knows him is familiar with this irresistible and compelling aura, his charismatic way of talking, and his manner of gazing as if he knows you down to your core. Of course his tall, almost-vampiric looks don't help at all in further cementing his reputation as a womanizer. That's why even though he has only had two serious relationships in the past, everybody still thinks he's some sort of a casanova who makes women swoon and despair.
The same, however, for some reason, does not work for you. Even before you realized and admitted to yourself that Sehun and you might be regarding each other differently, you have always seen him as a friend--someone to endlessly banter and make jokes with; someone to cry and mourn with; someone to just casually hang-out on the very mundane days of your pathetic existence. He is a dear friend to you--one who shows up when he's needed and even when he's the least person you could think to be there.
But somehow, in the recent years, you started to see him......in a different type of way. One that makes you see him as someone you will always have an almost soulmate-like connection. Maybe that's just the writers in both of you, that makes you romanticize about everything; that makes you like the same books; that makes you write about the same most delicate and mundane things; that makes him hold your knee in random conversations, mindlessly or thoughtfully.
But one that will remain unconfessed and you will take to your grave.
Maybe it began when your six-person circle went on a hotel staycation and the inevitable truth or dare came up at 12am. When one of your friends tactlessly inquired what's with the two of you, neither Sehun nor you responded in a heartbeat, the seconds that went in silence didn't go unnoticed by your friends. And by the two of you. You could not ultimately remember what both of you answered that night. But you do remember how you looked at one another, as if beckoning the other to just confess whatever it is that needed to be confessed--if there is ever any.
Or maybe it started when one random evening, he inquired about your personal blog--the one he knew was full of your rawest, most intimate feelings. And despite good judgment--despite every single heartstring displayed there for the world to witness how you feel things deeply and intensely--you gave the link to him--
A link which you changed after a few months, because you started writing about him again.
You know that changing the link will mean that he cannot access it again. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for you, however, he has not mentioned it, making you think that he stopped following your blog long before you decided to change it.
But right now, as he's here at your apartment--taking off his shoes, picking them up gently, and placing them neatly in your shoe rack (because he knows how anal you can get around cleanliness), walking around your space as if he's here all the time and the place is also his--you want to ask. And you want to give him the link to your most personal and intimate feelings and thoughts, again.
Specially when he said the next words.
"Have you ever thought what it would be like if we dated?"
You looked over at his figure lounging over your bedspread. You noticed that he was now just wearing his inner white shirt, the blazer and coat he was donning a while ago, now folded neatly in a nearby chair, knowing that you don't want anyone sitting in your bed without changing clothes worn outside.
"We're friends, Sehun," you reply shortly, as if your response is enough explanation to his otherwise intimidating question--one that you yourself has been asking all these years, whenever your thought reaches him.
But Sehun, being Sehun, just persisted. "Have you ever?"
You rolled your eyes, calculating your next expression and actions, because any wrong one will send him some signal. Looking at his eyes from the mirror in front of you, you reply, "Are you asking me that because everyone else got married except us? Are you going to marry me in pity?"
Sehun smirked at you, then lied his body across the expanse of the bedspread, his head still facing you, but his eyes now closed. "You know that's not my point."
Do I really know what's your point? You asked yourself. Because right now, you don't really know if you two are on the same page.
"Do you like Junmyeon?"
"What??" Your voice came across an octave higher. Something which Sehun noticed. Very much.
He opened his eyes again, this time, the sleepiness in them very much obvious, as if any given second he will strut off to dreamland.
"I don't know," you reply, your mind immediately thinking of Junmyeon--the nice guy friend you now have in college. The guy who once upon a time, you could have dated if not for....wew.
"He's nice," you respond, picking up the bottle of micellar water and pouring it over a round cotton. "Actually he's more than nice--he's very kind, generous, friendly, and a gentleman. Not to mention, he's very smart, too."
Ahhhh Jumnyeon--there was one point in time you actually considered him as your one who got away. The man who has showered you with attention and niceties from day one, but one you could not return.....because it's not the right thing to do.
"You still haven't answered my question, though."
You grinned to yourself. "Which one?"
"You know which one I'm talking about."
Swiping the last round cotton on your face, you went to the bathroom, cleansing your face in a dash, and going back to the boudoir in the room once again. It was when you're already applying your occlusive moisturizer when you realized Sehun's already asleep, a soft snore emerging from him.
You walked to his direction, crouching down a little, and swiping up the bangs that have fallen down his forehead. You looked at his delicate face, the same face you have been seeing since high school through your ups and downs; the same face that has been confusing you since then.
And from out of the most honest, confused, but hopeful part of your heart, you whispered, "I did."
When he didn't move, you continue, "In fact, sometimes, I still do."
But Sehun remained snoring throughout all that, the calmness in his face rivaled by the loud, but determined beating of your heart. You smiled at him, tucking him in your blankets, and leaving the room in darkness and silence.
Somewhere in the next few seconds of your departure though, the sound of soft snoring stopped and the echo of a mellow, but sleepy "hmm" and a hazy smile from a man supposedly asleep were witnessed by the four corners of that dark and silent room, still smelling of the freesia oils from your skincare routine.
Genre/Word Count: Fluff and bickering™️/1,744 words
Summary: You and Sehun are excited for a weekend of music and camping, as long as your arguing doesn’t throw a wrench into the plan.
A/N: TYYYYY @j-pping I hope you are reassured that they’re still sassy and chaotic and at each other’s throats every day (in a loving manner, of course 😂)
July 10th, 1998
“Am I going to have to baby you the entire weekend, again?” You bite your lip to smother a grin when Sehun turns around, scandalized.
He rests his hands on the counter next to the register and narrows his eyes at you, pretending to be innocent while you fold the new shipment of crop tops. “I am a pillar of composure. I have no idea what you mean.” With a scoff and a crinkle of his nose, he goes back to sorting change into the registers.
“Oh, so that wasn’t you and Baekhyun that Hitch and I had to practically carry to the car after karaoke last week?” It truly wasn’t that dramatic. But your boyfriend is such a soft, handsy man when he’s had a few too many that you enjoy teasing him. “Did I not also practically get tackled into the bed when I tried to give you some Advil?”
Sehun huffs and blushes slightly. “Okay, fine. So maybe one or two times I have enjoyed myself thoroughly.” He sets the receipts down and slowly walks over to you, doing that stealthy seductive thing he does with a slow appraisal of your body. “But I seem to recall that you have come back from girls night tequila Tuesdays a bit cuddly yourself.”
You groan. He has you there, dammit. “Me? I have absolutely no memory of this and you, sir, do not have the receipts to prove it.” He dips and wraps his arms around your waist, lifting you up as you secure your legs around his waist. Even as you protest. “I’m taking the fifth, your honor.”
Thankfully, there’s no one in the store this early. And if Kyle does watch the newly-installed security cameras (unlikely, given how little he’s interested in technology, and how infrequent occasions are that he needs to), he has known for several months that his two most successful supervisors are together.
Together, you think, almost laughing. If someone had told you a year ago that you’d be playfully arguing with Sehun whilst wrapped up in him, trying not to grin or kiss him. Well, you’d have called that someone a damned rotten liar.
He laughs in between pressing quick kisses to your lips. “You do know. That pleading the fifth. Means you’re refusing to testify because. It would implicate you in a crime?”
You tangle your hands in his hair, pressing yourself more firmly against him as he carries you behind the register to set you on the counter. “And what of it? You don’t know what we get up to on tequila Tuesdays. We could be running an illegal gambling operation. Stealing cars with our feminine wiles.”
At your proud smirk Sehun tilts his head back. “You’re impossible. I had no idea that all that sass also contained criminal tendencies.”
Leaning back on your hands, you draw him closer with your legs crossed over his hips. “Oh, yeah? And what are you going to do about it?”
He pretends to think about it seriously, but his hands tracing a subtle pattern where your shirt tucks into your pants give away where his thoughts truly are. “I guess I could find it in me to like a bad girl. I mean, you certainly have the attitude for it.”
Your jaw drops open in shock and reach out for him as you yell, “Hey!”
But he’s somehow twisted out of your leg lock, dancing around the counter to hide behind the display of seasonal shorts and tank tops. “Are you -” he tries to talk, but keeps pausing to laugh. “Are you seriously trying to argue that you don’t have an attitude.”
“As if you don’t?” Reaching for the first thing you can find, you lightly toss a sharpie at him with a quirk of your brow. “As if we don’t bring out the very worst in each other?”
His laughing stops, face going calmer even as the amusement lingers in the way his eyes crinkle at the corners. “Wait. I thought you liked how we egg each other on.” Sehun comes back to the counter, picking up the sharpie along the way and tucking it behind his ear. “You’d tell me if you didn’t, right?”
He pauses at the far side and rests his elbows on the surface as you slide off the counter and come closer. No matter what you’re doing - working, cooking dinner, out with your friends - the two of you always gravitate together. Like two very persistent, difficult planets that battle to pull each other closer with their gravity.
You know that it’s still a tricky thing to navigate. Working together and dating.
Two incredibly independent people trying and occasionally failing to find the words and gestures to properly show how much you need each other, trust each other, and miraculously, love each other. The level of vulnerability required sometimes shocks you, but it’s reassuring to know that every step you take, he’s right there beside you - trying just as hard and being just as brave.
Reaching forward, you rest your hands on his forearms. “I love how we are,” you start, squeezing him reassuringly. “You know I’d complain if I didn’t.”
The brief worry vanishes from his face and he drops his hands to the counter, turning his arms so he’s holding your forearms as well. “I love it too.” Leaning forward, he presses a soft kiss to your forehead. “But should you have any complaints in the future, we here at Starlight Apparel are most excited to hear your constructive feedback.”
You laugh and grip his collar to pull him closer, kissing him once more. But a loud rattling of the gate leading to the mall on your right startles you apart.
Baekhyun whistles. “Looks like I’ve interrupted something.” He waggles his brows and squints into the slightly darkened store. “My apologies.”
Running your hands through your hair, you attempt to find your composure. Another reason it’s hard working with your boyfriend - actually focusing on the work part instead of the boyfriend part.
“No worries, we should probably get back to opening. Considering we have -” You shake the mouse on the computer and see that indeed there are only five minutes left. “Shit. Five minutes til opening.”
Sehun bustles back around the counter beside you to finish opening the tills. “You have excellent timing, as always, Baek.”
The man in question bows dramatically. “At your service. But I really came to make sure you packed your portable grill? Hitch wants to make - and I quote - absolutely effing certain that we’re having s’mores tonight - unquote.”
The Van Halen concert at the Gorge and concurrent camping trip have been all your friend group could talk about for weeks. It was an incredibly tricky process to score tickets - thankfully, Chanyeol and Minseok had connections through their friends at The End radio station. Divvying up the driving assignments and who would pack what and buy what for the weekend concert extravaganza was the real difficult part.
But it’s finally all sorted out and there’s just one shift ahead of you all before it begins. The cars are packed, the coolers are ready to be filled with ice and every snack imaginable. Baekyun is fulfilling his role as the town cryer of the group, like always.
“You think this one would let me rest if I didn’t buy eight hundred boxes of graham crackers and chocolate bars?” Sehun throws a grin over his shoulder at you as he counts the cash.
“Excuse me,” you say, looking up from the schedule for the day. “It’s a necessity. I’m not going camping without hot dogs and I am certainly not going camping without marshmallows. The girls have a mutual demand on that point.”
Baekhyun holds up his hands in surrender. “Okay, just double checking. I value my vital organs and don’t want any girlfriend-related mauling to happen if we forgot.”
Despite the violence implied in that statement, the man is practically glowing. It’s been months and you still occasionally forget that he and Hitch finally got together after what felt like years of being idiots. The world is all as it should be.
The muzak starts in the mall and you see Leeteuk making his way, jingling the keys in hand, to unlock the front doors. “Now you’ve got to scram, we’re incredibly late to opening,” you say with mock irritation.
“You got it!” He waves and dashes off in the direction of the movie theater. “See you guys this afternoon!”
Sehun’s hand finds your waist and he leans down to whisper, “It’s entirely your fault. You distracted me.”
With a squeeze of your hip, he dodges out of the way. Wisely, because you chase after him with the paper schedule brandished like a weapon. “My fault? You’re the chaotic one who always starts this!”
As you chase each other through the clothing racks, you can’t help but grin. Laughter blossoming in your chest and a warmth spreading up your neck that has something to do with the inevitable way his lips will find their way back to yours before you finally open (late, but honestly who is shopping at eight in the morning on a sunny Friday?) and absolutely everything to do with the way you love his difficult, wonderful, ridiculous ass so much it hurts sometimes.
Some things have changed. Many, many things, in fact. Over the course of the past year and change at the Exodus Mall. But as Sehun catches you, toppling you both to the ground by the shoes display, you’re even more grateful for what has stayed the same. Especially, you think, as you snicker and mess up his hair as he leans down to kiss you, the fact that arguing will never stop being the highest expression of love for you both.
He presses his face to your neck, huffing out a breath. “If I let you win this one, can I avoid you making me sleep outside the tent all weekend?”
“Hmm, that depends on how well you cook me a s’more.” You sigh and press up on his shoulders. “And how much trouble we get in if Kyle finds out we opened late.”
He doesn’t relent. “What Kyle doesn’t know won’t hurt him.”
And as you lay tangled up with your boyfriend amidst the dust bunnies and carefully folded pants, you wholeheartedly agree with him. For once.
Your eyes looked around in awe as your car pulled up to the set that you’d be working on throughout the day. You had never seen so many cameras before, with several members of the cast arriving the same time you did, scripts in one hand, coffee cups in the other, carrying themselves as the professionals that they were.
“Come on, I can’t wait to introduce you to everyone,” Sehun smiled from beside you.
Your head nodded, trying your best to push your nerves for the day ahead to the back of your mind. You accepted Sehun’s hand as he opened up the door to the transit that had picked you up from his apartment, grabbing your bag with your free hand as Sehun wrapped his other arm around your waist to keep you into him.
Straight away, familiar faces began to look around as they spotted Sehun arriving for his day. Luckily for you, several of the guest cast members appeared too, familiarising yourself with the people that you’d be working with throughout the day.
“Do you want me to show you around?” Sehun offered, knowing his way around the set after three seasons of filming, “I’ve already managed to bag you my makeup artist for the day.”
“Are you really willing to share your staff with me?” You quizzed in surprise.
Sehun nodded in reply, tugging you further into his side so that he was able to press a kiss to the top of your head. “Trust me, I wouldn’t share them with anyone else, but I guess that I can make one exception for you.”
“Aren’t you cute,” you teased, jabbing the tip of your finger into his side, “this place is so much bigger than I ever imagined.”
For three seasons, you had listened to Sehun’s stories from the set of Busted, when the contract came for you to appear in an episode, it seemed like a no brainer. The two of you had been searching for some time for the perfect project to work on together, almost as if Busted knew that the two of you would be perfect for the job.
In the weeks that followed, Sehun made sure to help you with your script and fill you in on all of the ins and outs that happened during a shoot. He had plenty of insider secrets, which quickly settled your nerves about appearing on such a well-known programme.
As your eyes looked around, the strength in Sehun’s arm managed to pull towards several of his castmates that were stood around and catching up before the inevitable call came for everyone to start getting ready.
“So, this is the famous Y/N,” Jaesuk spoke as you neared him, offering his hand straight away for you to shake. “We’ve heard so much about you Y/N, I swear this guy hardly ever wants to talk about anything else other than you.”
Your eyes immediately looked to Sehun for assurance, noticing straight away the soft smile that was on his face, knowing by the look in his eyes that he was trying his best to control his blush, whilst also silently asking Jaesuk to stop dropping him in it.
“He’s been begging the staff to let you come and appear on one of the shows,” Kwangsoo added, a little less willing to not throw Sehun under the bus in front of you. “We’ve seen so many clips of you acting to see what you’re like.”
“We’re big fans too,” Minyoung interjected, noticing your expression beginning to drop, “we can also see exactly what Sehun sees in you.”
Your head nodded, feeling Sehun’s grip tighten around you in an attempt to make sure that you didn’t believe what they were saying. You couldn’t help but chuckle as you learnt several secrets about exactly what Sehun was like on the set.
“We promise to take good care of you today too,” Jongmin added as the conversation died down, “mainly because if we don’t, we know that we’ll get in trouble.”
“Just treat me like any other guest and ignore everything that Sehun says.”
Before he had the chance to defend, one of the directors came out of the trailers, using a megaphone to let everyone know that they needed to start preparing for the shoot, with everyone heading off in their separate directions to get sorted.
“Where do I need to go?” You asked Sehun, taking a few small steps in the direction of where you saw several of the guest cast members. As you moved, Sehun reached out for you, taking your hand and pulling you back with him.
“Do you think I’m letting you go with them when you can come with me?” He asked you.
Your shoulders shrugged, although you were pretty confident that you already knew the answer. “I thought you said that we had to at least try and be professional today, and you’re pulling all of these strings for me.”
There were little things that Sehun just couldn’t ignore, he wanted to make sure that he could keep you safe and help you with anything that you needed throughout the day.
“My trailer is so much better than anything that those guys have,” Sehun assured you.
“Does that mean that I should stay in it?” You joked.
Without even having to think, Sehun’s head nodded in reply to you. “I’m being serious Y/N, everyone here knows that we’re a couple, I think everyone expected that you would get treated a little better today.”
Your head nodded as Sehun opened the door to his trailer, letting you go in first as he followed behind. Your eyes looked around in surprise, impressed by how clean it was, noticing a few items too that you had come to expect from Sehun.
“Junmyeon gifted me a picture of the two of us when he came to shoot,” Sehun explained as you noticed a photo frame at his desk, just beside his scripts. “He said that he thought it would give me motivation to do better.”
You slowly walked over, picking the frame up and reminiscing about the photo inside. You could still remember the day, it was a photo from early on in your relationship, with the two of you both wearing nervous smiles.
“And does it help?” You questioned as you placed the photo frame back down.
Sehun nodded straight away in reply, making his way across to you and wrapping his arms around your waist. His grip was tight, almost relieved to have you at work with him having spent months looking at a photo of you instead.
“I think having you here in person might just give me a bit more encouragement,” he whispered into your ear, “I’m glad that the producers finally saw sense and listened to me, realising just how talented you are.”
“I suppose that I should say thank you too, without you, I wouldn’t have got the job here,” you smiled, resting your hands over Sehun’s, “I’m excited to get to work with you, even if we might not get much work together.”
A hum came from behind you as Sehun rested his chin against your shoulder, “maybe working on Busted could be the start to several more projects, it could open the door to new adventures if people see how well we work.”
“We’ve just got to make sure that we do well, and remain professional too,” you reminded him.
“I’m always professional,” he argued.
“Sehun, stealing kisses between takes is not professional.”
Sehun and you shampooing your son’s hair together lol
The front door opened, signalling Sehun’s arrival. Seyoung, your six year old came running to greet Sehun with his dinosaur plushie bought during Sehun’s business trip. Seyoung would bring Mr Snuggles, the triceratops everywhere he goes. The minute his cousins hide it, he would immediately burst into tears while yelling yours and Sehun’s name. It would always be a mess. But now, you knew better. You got an air tag especially for Mr Snuggles so that you’ll be able to locate it. Seyoung immediately got ahold of Sehun’s hands and pulled him towards his room, wanting to show the new storybook you helped him make. Sehun read the book to him and he felt sleepy.
After preparing dinner for the two of you in the kitchen, you went to Seyoung’s room to see what the daddy-son duo was up to and your heart burst with love. This is exactly what you imagined your future to be like and it actually looked like it. You couldn’t help but smile at your favorite boys. You noticed Seyoung’s drooping eyes, you knocked softly on the door, making Sehun aware of your presence. He knew what the look meant– get Seyoung ready for bed.
Sehun slowly shook the six year old, “Hey lil guy, let’s wash up! Mommy’s waiting with your rubber Dinos!” he softly said. Seyoung sleepily nodded as a response. He then picked up your little guy and brought him to the bathroom. The tub was filled with warm ‘birthday cake-scented’ water; just how Seyoung likes it along with his rubber Dinos placed in a beeline.
You squeezed a dollop of shampoo onto your palm, rubbing them together to create bubbles and then plopping it onto your six years old’s fluffy hair– just like his dad’s. The good genes, they say. You were busy massaging Seyoung’s scalp when Sehun and Seyoung had a water war, they kept splashing water at each other making Sehun drenched in birthday cake water. The domesticity of the act made you feel at home. It felt so warm.
As Sehun helped Seyoung with his pjs, you sprayed some kid’s hair serum and combed the shampooed hair of his. Seyoung looked exactly like his dad– definitely a clone. Next time, I’m asking for my own clone, enough of Sehun’s cloning machine. Chilly room. The room smelled of lavender, marjoram, vetiver and chamomile. Sleepy child tucked into a fluffy blanket, not forgetting Mr Snuggles. As you closed the door, Sehun hugged you from the back, you could feel the warmth emitting from his body. You did well today, he said. You muttered a small thank you. To more days like this.
[not me dreaming about this,,,anyways...]
DO NOT COPY, TRANSLATE, REPOST WITHOUT PERMISSION.
Word count: 5087
Genre: fluff, drama and a little bit comedy.
Warnings: mentions of violence and guns.
Note: The final part is here 😭 let me apologise first because when it comes to an end I suck with but I couldn’t do this without everyone who encouraged me to keep going and took the time to read, you have no idea how important it was to me so thank you very much!! ❤️
Summary: It's time to officially introduce Sehun as your boyfriend to your dad but you end up having to see him on duty in a way you didn't expect.
My relationship with Sehun was the smoothest I've ever had in my entire life. As ironic as it sounded, since our routines were the complete opposite of that.
We had only been together for a few months, meeting whenever our schedules were available, and I could no longer imagine my life without him.
He was special, passionate and irresistible in every way.
Whenever we were together it was like the world didn't matter, that time was running in our favor and I felt an emptiness whenever he needed to run to base.
I could tell I was used to it, because I had this crazy routine myself and I couldn't judge anyone for it. But one thing I had to admit, I was worried whenever he left at dawn, even though he assured me that everything was fine.
I always thought that something serious was going on.
However, every time I woke up with him wearing his uniform, he would gently place kisses on my cheek and say he would be back soon, making me fall more and more in love with him.
We were practically living together, unofficially, I wore more Sehun's clothes at home when he wasn’t here than my own.
And my mood at the hospital was brighter even on Mondays, Sehun was largely to blame for that. But I didn't complain.
It's been a while since I felt so happy, so light to be with someone who respects and loves me. And it felt good, really good.
Well, Sehun and I hadn't said the three magic words yet, I think we were both afraid of what would happen after that, but I didn't need them to understand how he felt about me because I felt the same. Increasingly.
The day of the Institution of Monalisa's event had arrived and I had already prepared everything.
I'd gotten a day off from the hospital and a fancy dress, even looked up a good makeup tutorial on the internet.
Sehun and I texted while I was getting ready and we agreed that he would pick me up at home. After doing the hair, held in a simple way, and the light makeup I put on the elegant champagne dress with fallen sleeves, bow lace up and nude high heels.
I wasn't one to brag but I had done a good job, the good thing about events like this was that they gave me the opportunity to dress up elegantly, not like I went to the hospital every day.
When I had finished giving the last spray of perfume, Sehun let me know that he was already waiting for me outside. I smiled as replied that I was already going down and I felt my hands sweat, he still managed to make me feel all those cliché teenage things.
But I liked it.
I put my cell phone in my small bag and locked my apartment, heading quickly to the elevator and thanked when it arrived soon. I greeted the doorman and left my building being careful not to fall, it had been so long since I wore heels that I was afraid of embarrassing myself right in front of Sehun.
And speaking of him, he had just gotten out of the car and I just admired him as he walked up to me like was in slow motion.
So this really happens in real life when you're in love.
He was breathtaking naturally, but today he was irresistible. He was wearing a white tuxedo and a matching bow tie, black straight pants and fancy shoes.
I smiled widely as he came closer and pulled me by the waist to place a long kiss on my cheek, brushing my lips lightly. He smelled like expensive perfume and if it hadn't been for the event and the fact that we were on short notice, I wouldn't have controlled the urge to kiss him right then and there.
"Hi, doll." he smirked and I sighed, silly.
"Hi" I replied, feeling my cheeks burn but when I noticed a certain bruise on his left eye I frowned. "What's that on your face?"
"Beauty?" I rolled my eyes at the answer and touched his skin gently to show what I meant. It was clear that he had tried to hide it with makeup but the fact that I was so close to him helped me to notice, from a distance it really didn't look like it.
"What was this?" I asked him one more time and he got serious all of a sudden.
"It's nothing serious." he replied but I didn't believe it, he noticed of course, so took my hand for himself and kissed the palm.
A simple gesture but that didn’t make me forget.
I wasn't an expert like him, but it wasn't the first time I'd seen a bruise like that, a typical and clear sign of a fight. The fact that I understood his work didn't cancel out my worries and all the theories I ended up creating in my head.
I grimaced and was silent, sometimes I hated the fact that protocol of his work was this. It even felt like I was talking to my father.
"I'm fine, I'm here." Sehun brought his free hand to my face and caressed my cheek slowly, I stared at him for a while and smiled slightly.
“Good.” he kept his arm around my waist and we went to his car.
During the ride, Sehun and I talked about Monalisa and my father, he seemed interested in finding out more about my relationship with them and I felt free to talk, something that rarely happened, but he had this power over me.
The story of my father and Monalisa wasn’t that exciting, my father was always a politician with a notorious influence and when he became a minister he met Monalisa at one of the numerous events he attended. The two had a lot in common and ended up getting closer, it didn't take long for them to be together officially.
The wedding wasn't set yet and I didn't even know if it was going to happen, but I liked Monalisa. Even though she was influential in her midst, she wasn't haughty and that was a very important point for me, not to mention that my father seemed slightly happy so it wasn't like I had the right to be mad at him for moving on with his life.
I was no longer that motherless child.
"Since I'm heading to the wolf's den, I wanted to introduce you to someone later." he said as soon as we got out of the car and he offered his arm for me to link mine.
"Who?" I asked curiously as rested my hand in the crook of his arm.
"My Captain, Suho, he's practically my big brother."
"I thought you were the Captain."
We arrived at the door and I handed over the invitation, we were released shortly after and we entered.
"There are some differences between patents." he explained and I stared at him with a frown, making him laugh.
“I get it, it's too confusing for a civilian. Noted." he smiled discreetly and we stopped in the hall.
Sehun observed the place closely, it was like all her events: chic and elegant, full of photographers and important people in the community of philanthropic millionaires.
I was nervous about the idea, after all, it's not every day you meet another Marine Captain, but I confess that I liked it. If Sehun was wanting to introduce me to someone important to him, it meant our relationship was going better than I expected.
My father and Monalisa were greeting some guests in the center of the hall and I decided to introduce Sehun officially, after all that's what he had gone there for, as we approached I noticed my father's expression change. From a friendly smile he changed to seriousness.
Great, he was going to play protector now.
Sehun hadn't commented if he and my dad had met after that day at my apartment, but from the tension in the air, I could tell that they had.
“Y/N, good to see you!” Monalisa came over to greet me and I hugged her quickly with a smile.
“Hi Monalisa, how are you?” I asked politely and she smiled back.
“This is Sehun, my boyfriend.” the words came out so naturally that it startled my dad, I made a point of staring at him and for a second I regretted it.
He didn't look as happy as he should have been, was visibly worried and it was Monalisa who spoke first.
"It's a pleasure, Sehun." she reached out her hand to him, and he squeezed it gently.
“Y/N, can you join me for a minute?” my dad asked, he didn't even hide it and I agreed irritably.
I gave Sehun's arm a light squeeze before walking away, trying to make sure everything was ok.
My father took me to a corner of the hall and I had my back to Sehun and Monalisa.
“Alright, what was that?”
"I brought my boyfriend, as you suggested." I replied dryly.
“What are you trying to prove, Y/N?” I looked at him confused.
“And why would I have to prove anything to you?” I asked, putting my hands on my hips.
"Because it looks like you're doing it out of spite, just to tease me."
I laughed, not believing I was hearing that.
"My love choices aren’t based on what you think, I'm sorry to inform you." I made a move to get out of there but he grabbed me by the arm.
"I don’t trust him."
I was silent just staring at him to make sure he had said that.
“You’re his boss!”
“That's exactly why. He's a soldier, daughter, completely unpredictable. One day he'll leave and never come back, I don't want you to suffer that.”
I pulled away from his grip, I was in shock and annoyed. He more than anyone had no right to demand anything from me.
"Because about leaving you understand very well, don't you?" I said hurt and he hesitated. "We're not at war dad! Stop talking like Sehun is going to bring a target in my ass."
This time he was silent and I felt like he was holding back the answer he wanted to give me, like he wanted to refute my idea.
However, I didn't stay a minute longer there arguing with him. I left quickly as my heart sank.
I hated fighting with my dad and I mostly hated having to throw reality in his face, but it wasn’t like I was going to shut up in front of all that bullshit he'd said.
I was happy and if he didn't understand then we would have a lot of conflicts ahead, but I wouldn't give up on Sehun because of him or enemies that I couldn't see or even knew of their existence.
The atmosphere got heavy afterwards.
Sehun and I found a random table to sit at and I was uncomfortable, he had noticed that. And couldn't say that I was being the best of company today, although I noticed that Sehun was more tense from the moment I came back after the argument.
I didn't tell Sehun what my dad had told me, I didn't think it would improve the situation, but I imagined that he already knew the kind of thing I had to listen.
I didn't even pay attention to Monalisa's speech, not with my father directing his gaze to where Sehun and I were, I didn't look away and even dared to raise my eyebrow.
I was stubborn just like my mother.
The rest of the event went like this, my father didn't approach but kept watching from afar, making it look like a black cloud hovered over our heads, Monalisa came to talk to me a few times and gave me an apologetic smile, and I tried not to let anger consume me when she did. It wasn't her fault, it was my father's.
And Sehun, well, he was trying to defuse the situation. He stroked my hand under the table several times, looked at me with a tenderness that almost made me forget the scene my father had made.
I really hoped he was ready to deal with his father-in-law, because my father was a very difficult man to deal with, especially when it came to my maturation.
He never seemed to understand that I was growing up, even my job as a nurse he was slow to accept.
I caught a glimpse of Sehun looking at his phone and focusing on the screen for a while, when he put it in his pocket I stared at him.
"I need to go outside for a minute, alright?" he said and I raised an eyebrow as if asking if everything was okay.
That had caught my attention, even though he wasn't showing any emotion. His eyes roamed the room.
"Ok, it’s fine." I smiled and he walked over to give me a soft kiss on the cheek before leaving.
I followed him with my eyes until I lost sight of him, too curious to know why but as I wouldn't have an answer before he could return, I decided to go to the bathroom.
I greeted a few people on the way and it was a bit of a hassle having to relieve myself in that dress but I managed it, I was just finishing washing up when the door was flung open and a masked man appeared carrying a gun.
In shock, the only thing I did was raise my hands while he stood there, he wasn't one of the security guards at the event.
"I found her." he spoke into nothingness and I suspected it was some communicator that was being covered by the mask. “You come with me, sweetheart.” he took a few steps forward, his free hand ready to grab me and I just tried to pull away enough but I stopped at the wall and he grabbed my arm tightly, pointing the gun at my forehead. I swallowed hard and forced my legs to comply, not that it would make much difference because he practically dragged me out of the bathroom as I felt my blood run cold.
The path I came from was completely quiet but not empty, other guys masked in the same way and holding bigger weapons were waiting for him. I was forced to go back to the hall and when we reached it, a shot was fired causing all the guests to scream in terror.
I ducked out of sheer reflex and everyone turned their attention to the guy holding me, I looked at my dad and he was bent down hugging Monalisa. As soon as he saw me, panic took over his face, the guy holding me pushed my arm to get me straight again.
I tried to look for Sehun but he still wasn't there.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the party is starting now." the masked man spoke up and laughed.
The thugs rushed into the hall and approached the guests, pointing their weapons at anyone who made any mention of so much as blinking. One of them approached my father and grabbed him by the tie of his suit, a part of me wanted to tell them to stop, but the more rational part of my brain made me keep quiet.
I had a gun to my head, I wasn't supposed to be that brave.
“Ah, Minister of Defense!” the masked man who was holding me spoke and they brought my father close to him. "It's an honor to see you again."
My father looked at me quickly, trying to analyze if I was okay and I couldn't do anything but talk to him through his eyes. I knew he was holding back not to react.
My father wasn't cold to me just for what had happened to my mother, he had been in the military. And of the good ones, he had won one of the highest medals of honor in the army. That's why he got the post of minister.
But as good as he was, he knew it was too dangerous to do anything while outnumbered and unarmed.
And it even worse knowing that those men already knew him.
"Who are you?" my father asked and the man laughed.
"That's the wrong question." he squeezed my arm tighter and I complained in pain.
"What do you want?" my father spoke too quickly and I could see he regretted it.
It was clear they would use me now to take anything from my father.
"Right question. I want revenge." the man's tone was cold and I felt a nasty shiver.
He pushed me forward and I tripped over the dress, being grabbed by my dad.
“This time not even your special team will be able to save you, minister.”
I don't know if minutes or hours had passed since the break-in in the hall.
The adrenaline was still running through my veins and I confess that I felt enormous fear, to show that they weren't joking, the invaders brought the bodies of the security guards who were at the entrances and exits.
All shot in the forehead.
After that, all the guests remained silent for fear of breathing the wrong way and ending up the same way.
I didn't know where Sehun was but I hoped he was gone, God only knows how scared I was when they brought the bodies imagining he might be among them. But he wasn't.
It was the only moment that night that I was relieved.
The invaders were talking amongst themselves and the one who appeared to be the leader, the one who dragged me from the bathroom, was absent for a few minutes giving me the perfect opportunity to talk to my father who was next to me. Monalisa was with him.
"Who are they?" I asked in a whisper, watching the invaders gesticulate.
"That's not the most important thing right now, daughter." I closed my eyes trying to control the urge I was snorting with that answer.
“The fact that they know you is important.” I snapped and looked at him.
"We'll be out of here soon, I promise." that's all he said to me and I kept quiet.
I didn't want promises, I just wanted to leave.
We were being held hostage, those guys wanted the press at all costs, so they said, and I was pretty sure they had plans with my dad headlining.
I didn't want to think but I knew it was something bad, I felt it.
And I couldn't even reach for my phone on the table across the room to call 911.
There were 7 men in total, two hurriedly entered the room, one being the leader, and went to my father pulling him by his suit. The others must have stayed in the hallway watching.
I closed my hand, trying to control my anger and felt my nails sting my palms. Did they really have to use that aggression?
"It's time for our reward, minister."
"Go to hell." my father replied and the man started to walk away but he hit my father on the forehead with the gun, causing him to stumble.
My body temperature got hotter and I felt my heart beat at a frantic pace, without thinking too much I stood up.
"Stop!" I asked and at the same moment he pointed the gun at my head again.
I swallowed all the curses I wanted to say.
“You’re brave, cutie.” he unlocked the gun and I stayed put.
Yeah, stubbornness at those times was really a bad defect.
Before he could speak or do anything, 5 shots were heard from the hallways.
He pulled me by the arm again and dragged me like I was a rag doll until I was in front of him like a human shield.
He forced me to take two steps forward and his colleague did the same, staying on my right side.
At the door, three armed, uniformed men appeared, and I could never fail to recognize them, especially the one in the center.
I wanted to cry the moment I saw him, the serious face and death glare as he looked through the long gun had never looked so comforting, the rigid, cautious stance showing he was weighing the odds. Kai and Chanyeol were by his side, just as serious.
The leader laughed and made some movement that I later noticed was to take off the mask that covered him, throwing it on the ground in front of me, Sehun didn't seem to be shaken.
“End of the line, black bat.” Sehun spoke, his voice as sharp as a knife.
"Not until I say so, Captain."
"Release the hostages and maybe I'll be a little merciful."
The leader laughed once more.
“The entire outcast of Korean high society will die tonight, starting with this pretty one.” he replied and the other hand went to my neck, squeezing it.
Reflexively, I wrapped mine around his fist, a clear sign of surrender, but he didn't let go. On the contrary, he squeezed even more and I lost my breath.
"Hands off her or I swear I'll rip your head off." Sehun warned, his tone very serious and he didn't take his eyes off me, but at that moment I couldn't face him as my eyes were covered with tears that blurred my vision.
I was terrified, I was never afraid to die because I lived in a hospital and I knew that life was short but I didn't want to die like that.
I didn't even know why they were doing that!
“Would you dare, Captain? A man as honorable as you wouldn’t risk your reputation.”
"I'll give you 3 seconds." Sehun warned.
I blinked my eyes several times and stared at him.
“You will regret killing my brother.”
"Three..." Sehun started counting and looked at me, his expression was like he said 'I'm sorry'.
"We will invade your land for good."
"Two..." Sehun cocked his head to the side and I mirrored his movement, now confused.
"And we will destroy everything you love." the leader threatened, loosening his grip and pointing the gun further at my head, hurting me.
Everything happened in slow motion.
Sehun stared and fired, I saw the bullet coming towards me and I barely had time to close my eyes because it passed inches from my face and the sound of something being hit by it made everything go back to its normal time.
I felt the grip on my neck completely disappear and the weight of the leader's body pulled me along with him as Kai and Chanyeol shot the henchman next to him.
I heard screams and noises, suddenly the world started to spin when I fell on top of the leader, his body was limp and he just couldn't breathe anymore.
The first person I saw was Sehun, gun still pointed and when his eyes landed on me, he let his guard down and reached for help me. Still in shock I took it but I didn't have the strength in my legs so he had to wrap my waist and practically lift me up on his own.
He cupped my face with his hand and looked at me worriedly.
"Are you okay?" he asked as he looked me up and down.
I nodded not knowing what to say until I looked at my own shoulder and saw a trail of blood, feeling hot liquid on my face I ran my hand and watched the blood as my hands shook.
"It’s ok, love, you're safe now." he assured and I just hugged him tight, my body shaking as I cried like a baby.
Sehun held me tight that night, his body heat was enough for me to feel protected and the gentle caress in my hair with the completely messy hairstyle made my body start to calm down.
“It’s ok. I'm here. I'm not going anywhere."
"What happened? Where did they come from? Who are they? How did you get here?" I dumped all the questions without even breathing and Sehun pulled me away enough to look at me.
"Kai sent me a message warning that some terrorists were coming after your father as the Monalisa events hardly have an efficient security against this type of attack." ah so that's why he left. "My team was already prepared to protect the event and the minister but the terrorists had infiltrated the security, that's why they were able to get in so quickly.
"And who are they?" I asked again, seeing Sehun hesitate to answer me.
Chanyeol appeared and announced that everyone was safe and that the police and ambulances were already outside. Sehun helped me out of the hall, I couldn't think straight so I just let myself be taken to the first ambulance that appeared in front of us, completely forgetting what I had asked him. I just wanted to get out of there, then we could talk calmly.
"I'll be right back, ok?" he said and I nodded, he kissed my forehead before leaving and going to his team.
While he was talking, the paramedics analyzed me, I said that I was fine and that the blood that was in me wasn’t mine, I also said that I was a nurse and that I knew what I would need to do with the red on my neck, although I didn't could think about it so much.
The scene of the bullet coming towards me while a gun was pointed at my head kept on repeating over and over.
When Sehun came back, the paramedics had already left and I was just sitting in the ambulance. He took off the vest he was wearing and the long-sleeved army shirt and put it on my shoulder, I was still shivering but not just because of the icy wind that night, the adrenaline had already dropped and now I felt my whole body ache.
“The first time is always the hardest, when the adrenaline leaves your body and it cools down, it's a mix of emotions.” he commented and looked at me, I laughed weakly.
“Not quite the kind of adventure I had envisioned for tonight.” I confessed and he smiled, hugging me sideways.
"Forgive me." he asked and I stared at him confused.
"For putting you in danger, this wouldn't have happened if I wasn't close to..." I shook my head and cut him off with a kiss on the lips.
I brought my hand up to his cheek and caressed his skin.
"You saved me. I owe my life to you.” I said looking deep into his eyes and he touched our foreheads.
"Captain." I heard my father's voice and we walked away. Sehun started to get up, but my father stopped him with his hand. I saw the bandage on his forehead and he looked as shaken as I did. "Please don't."
“Dad, if you're going to lecture now, please…” I started, already feeling my head hurt.
"Quite the opposite!" interrupted me and I looked at him confused.
No speech about how dangerous my boyfriend was?
“I underestimated you, Captain. You warned me this would happen and I didn't listen, and to show how unfair I was being, you were the one who saved the most important person in my life.” he looked at me with an expression of pure regret and I felt my heart tighten.
Was he admitting he was wrong?
"I would do anything for her." Sehun replied and looked at me, making me smile. “I would give my life for your daughter, sir.”
"I know now." my father smiled and extended his hand to Sehun, who reluctantly took it. “Forgive me for before. I trust you to protect my daughter.”
My jaw dropped when I heard that. Was my father asking for forgiveness? And giving me the go-ahead for me to date one of his soldiers?
What kind of timeline was this I was in?
"You won't regret it, sir." Sehun assured and they waved their hands for a while, looking at each other.
My dad took a step back and I got out of the ambulance.
"Dad!" I caught his eye and wrapped him in a hug, feeling him waver for a moment but return it shortly after. "Thanks." I spoke softly and he smiled as he walked away.
“Get the defibrillator, I think I'm having a heart attack.” he pointed inside the ambulance and lay down on the floor of it, making me laugh as I turned around.
"Don't even joke about it." I said and went back to sit next to him, once again that night he enveloped me with his warm hug. "You got something I've never seen in my entire life, you know?"
“Making my dad admit he was wrong, in front of me by the way.”
Sehun laughed, he must have known that better than I did.
“I had to fight terrorists to get his approval for us to date. Imagine what I will have to do to ask for your hand in marriage.”
I smiled shyly, feeling my cheeks burn.
Did he think about marrying me?
“Making me happy is enough.” I replied and looked at him, he had a twinkle in his eye and a slight smile.
“This is my life's mission.” he admitted and I smiled widely, feeling my heart warm.
"I love you." I said without a shadow of a doubt and he was taken by surprise.
His smile widened and he kissed my forehead once more.
"I love you too, doll.”
Sehun came over to kiss me softly, in a way that made me forget for a second the cold, where we were and what had happened.
But not even his warm lips would made me stop being curious
"But don't think that we won't talk about this night, I still want..." I pulled away from him and he made a noise with his mouth.
"You talk too much. Just stay with me." complained and he pulled me back so we could pick up where we left off and I just smiled, feeling really protected.
Summary: What could one week change in a casual friendship between a woman and a man? Sehun--the friend who unabashedly flirts and banters with you in the guise of friendship. Junmyeon--the friend who tried to woo you once, but now is just content in maintaining a casual friendship with you. When Sehun proposed a one-week relationship with you, you found yourself unearthing feelings for him you never thought were there. When Junmyeon ended up in a one-week study program abroad with you, you found yourself realizing that he just might be the guy you have been searching all your life.
But all you have is one week.
One week to figure out who is "the one".
A/N: This new series is part of the CdC Universe.
P.S. Welcome back, Kim Junmyeon. :)
P.P.S. Happy Valentine's everyone!
P.P.P.S. Credits to the creators of these headers! They're so lovely!
"Is that Baekhyun?"
Yes, and he just broke my heart, damn it. Why does this always--hey wait, who is that? You look behind you and saw Taeri. "How long have you been there?"
She snickered at you, taking one last look at the man's retreating figure before entangling her arm around yours, dragging you slowly back to the classroom. "Is that his wife?"
You nodded rather absent-mindedly, your head still quite caught up with the conversation you had with Baekhyun a while ago before the girl in the powder blue hoodie took him away. Somewhere. Everywhere. Whatever.
"I didn't know he was married," Taeri continues, which subconsciously reminds you that your friend had a long-time crush on Baekhyun.
"Oh no, Taeri--" you begin. "I completely forgot that you.. That you like him so much."
But Taeri just shrugged her shoulders at you. "That's her, right? The girl he has been in love with for like forever, but couldn't just admit to himself? The girl from law school? His 'savior'?"
You pouted sadly at her. Oh, poor girl, nodding your head as slowly as possible, as if the gentleness in your motion would make your friend feel better.
"That's fine. He looks so happy," Taeri says, looking back again at the girl with the shoulder-length hair, bouncing up and down her powder blue hoodie.
"Chanyeol's already dating someone else."
Taeri's head whipped at you. "What?"
"Yeah, that's why Baekhyun is here," you confirmed. "He's here to deliver the bad news."
It was now Taeri's turn to pout at you. "Oh no, Y/N."
But you just shook your head. "Oh don't give me that look!" you said, as you playfully nudge your friend's shoulder. "It doesn't hurt that much, puh-lease."
"But you're starting to like him, don't you?"
Do I? You sighed. "We just went for one date. It's nothing serious."
Liar, your brain screams back. And it was as if your mind and Taeri's are communicating, when she raised her eyebrows at you.
"It's true," you opened the door to the classroom, mindlessly walking over to your seat.
"It doesn't hurt me that much," you start. "But of course.."
Taeri waits, almost anticipating the "but" from your sentences. She knows you so well that she can predict your conversations already.
"Of course it's nice to be liked by someone, you know," you explained, casually opening your laptop and typing in the password. "Sometimes, it's nice to belong to someone."
Taeri sadly smiles at you. I know, she says, as she gives your shoulder a sympathetic pat, before you got up and transferred to another seat, leaving her at the back of the room.
But the thing is, Y/N, Taeri says to herself, the thing is--
Somebody already likes you.
You just have to pay more attention.
And as if Taeri was the narrator in Y/N's melodramatic life, two fine men--both equally handsome and equally kind, but with completely different attitude and dispositions--approached you, their smiles reserved for no one else inside the room, but for Y/N.
The first candidate: Oh Sehun, Taeri says to herself, her eyes tracing the figure of the tall guy, his cheeky banter already finding you even before he can finally reach your seat.
The longer Taeri stares at Sehun, she can't help but summarize the guy's history with you, in almost like a dating profile that looks like this:
Wow, what a history, Taeri thought, as she looks at the way Sehun absent-mindedly tucked a strand of your hair behind your ear, as if it was the most natural thing for him to do.
Which did not escape Junmyeon's attention, the guy staring at Sehun's hand, his eyes like heated magnet. Thankfully, it was then that you lifted your head and looked at him, your eyes immediately connecting to his already smiling ones.
The second candidate: Kim Junmyeon.
Sehun got a pretty stiff competition, Taeri laughs to herself, continuously amusing herself with the almost artistic painting before her--a too-oblivious girl between two fine men, who, if not, for their courtesy and respect for one another, would be fighting over her like two beasts now.
Oh, Y/N--you, my friend, are in for a wild ride, Taeri smiles to herself, as you laughed at something that Junmyeon said, his smile beaming at you, with Sehun, clenching his jaw in the background.