acatwhowrites: (Taohun♡bros)
A Cat Who Writes ([personal profile] acatwhowrites) wrote2014-08-29 04:14 pm

That Was Then, but Then It's True

title: That Was Then, but Then It's True
players: Byun Baekhyun, Huang Zitao/Tao, Kim Jongin/Kai, Oh Sehun
word count: ~5600 words
rating: PG-13
warning/s: attempted suicide, depression/mental illness, mentioned character death
summary: (49 Days AU) Life is not a fairy tale.

a/n: Originally written for perfectedart, the Baekhyun/Kai exchange. (Original post is here. I promise I actually wrote this, even if the reveals post says differently. ;;w;;) The title comes from Alexander Rybak's Fairytale. Kind relevant to the story but not really. I have never seen the drama this is based off of.





Life could not have been more perfect if it was a fairy tale.

Fresh out of college with degrees in music industry and business, Byun Baekhyun was ready to start his own company with his lifelong best friends. He was engaged to his long-time crush. His apartment sat in a newly renovated area of Seoul. His family was supporting him, his decisions, and his dreams. Everything was perfect.

He hummed, sitting in the back of a taxi. His phone sat on his lap, open to a chat with his fiancée logging the many plans and details of their impending wedding.

“You're in a good mood,” the driver commented, flipping off another car as it cut into the lane before them. “Going to see your girlfriend?”

“Fiancée.”

“Oh! Congratulations. When's the wedding?”

“We haven't decided—‽” His voice rose in a panicked pitch as the taxi screeched and swerved unexpectedly. His hands flew up, awkwardly catching himself, but his head slammed against the back of the front seat. Glass shattered and showered over him. The driver shouted something garbled.

The sudden stop threw him back against his own seat. Something wet dripped down his arms and face. A blown-up portrait of an idol beamed at him. Their jaw was pushed in and an eye protruded comically, as if laughing at the playing out of fate, but Baekhyun's chin rested on his chest and his eyes were closed.



Sirens wailed loudly all around, and coloured lights flashed when Baekhyun opened his eyes again. He was flat on his back on the road, paramedics on either side of him. Wasn't that dangerous? There was bound to be broken glass.

A man leaned over him, calling, “Sir. Sir! Can you hear me?”

Baekhyun sat up with a groan. “I'm alright.”

“Hang on, kid. We're getting you out of here.” Another medic lowered a gurney to rest on its wheels.

“No, really.” Baekhyun shook his head. “I'm okay.” He felt fine, but the taxi certainly didn't. It was completely mangled within the dent it made in the company van that, in turn, was quite attached to a traffic light post that bent over them like a doting mother over her babies.

The paramedics ignored his protests, kneeling by his side with large bags of supplies. A woman reached towards him, and her hands passed right through his chest.

“What‽” Baekhyun clamoured sideways, falling against—again, through—the other paramedic. He watched in silent horror and confusion as his body remained a bloody mush on the pavement and men and women bandaged the wounds as best as possible, lifted him onto a gurney, and wheeled him to a waiting ambulance. “What happened. . .?”

The paramedics kept talking to his body, which was impossible, because he was right there, upright! Talking! Freaking out! Panicking!

He spun in a circle, taking in the flashing lights refracting off broken glass. A tow truck backed up to the scene to haul the crumpled car from where it wrapped around a traffic light. Police officers were trying to keep the curious crowds back while allowing the proper people in and redirecting traffic. A helicopter hovered overhead, recording the scene for the evening's news. No one noticed the panicked young man covered in blood stumbling around his own body.

Baekhyun ran to a police officer and reached for his sleeve. “Officer, I. . .” His hand passed through the man's arm as if it wasn't there at all. He swung his fist right at the man's face, and he didn't even flinch.

It was as if he didn't even exist.

Can't anyone see me‽” Baekhyun screeched, clutching his bloodied shirt in his fists.

“You need to calm down.”

Baekhun jumped. A man—a boy, more like, wearing ripped jeans and a hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his snapback—stood behind him, watching the scene from his seat on the low cement planter decorating the sidewalk.

“You can see me?”

“Yes.” Strange, because where a face should be, Baekhyun only made out a vague haze of features.

Baekhyun“What happened? Why can no one else understand me? M-My hand just goes right through them. . .” He stared at his hand, as if something was wrong with it.

“It's not your time to die.”

Baekhyun's head popped up, brows drawn in a vee over his nose. “What do you mean?” A better idea. “Who are you?”

The boy shrugged. “I'm a Scheduler. I keep track of people whose lives are ending. This,” he gestured towards the accident, “was an accident you're not meant to die in. This wasn't supposed to happen.”

“That totally makes me feel better. So what am I supposed to do? They're taking my body away.” He whirled around, eyes wide. “Crap! They're taking my body! Hey! Wait!” He ran across the intersection and leaped into the ambulance before the doors slammed shut.

The ride was short and not very pleasant. Some turns were probably taken sharper than necessary. Baekhyun was surprised his body didn't roll off the gurney, although the straps helped keep him in place.

They arrived at the hospital in record time, but the scene of the accident was not far away. Road construction was the only reason it took them as long as it did.

Once the ambulance pulled up to the back, where emergency patients were taken in, a group of nurses rushed outside to take Baekhyun from the paramedics. He jogged behind them as his was wheeled inside and pushed into an empty room. Immediately, he was punctured and prodded and stripped and checked and redressed in a loose gown.

It was hours before he was wheeled into an empty room with the curtains drawn. For some reason, though, Baekhyun wasn't tired.

He sat on the edge of his hospital bed with a sigh. Red caught his attention, and he frowned at the red stains on his hands and clothes. The heart monitor beeped shrilly until he grudgingly accepted that no amount of rubbing his palms on his ruined trousers would help.

A soft knock made him turn. The boy from before, the Scheduler, shuffled inside, hands in his pockets.

Baekhyun skipped the pleasantries. “Do you really expect me to believe you're the Grim Reaper?”

“Not a reaper. Those guys actually do the killing. I'm more the book keeper, I guess.” The boy sat on the edge of an uncomfortable armchair, elbows on his knees with his fingers laced.

“Whatever. Point still stands.”

The Scheduler sighed, frustrated. He dropped his head back and rubbed his face with his hands. “You saw yourself on the road. You see yourself on that bed, now. Why is this,” he flung his fingers out in a gesture to himself, “hard to believe? Seeing is believing, right?”

Baekhyun tried to squeeze his hand, but he floated right through himself. “I just. . . I don't want it to be real.” He licked his lips. “I was on my way to meet my fiancée. We're planning our wedding; she had something planned for today.”

“I am sorry,” the Scheduler replied softly. He leaned forward. “I know this is rough. I forget, sometimes; I've been doing this for a while. I forget that for everyone else, it's still new.” He sighed again and sat back in a low slouch. “There is still hope for you, though.” He met Baekhyun's curious, hopeful gaze. “I hate seeing people go before its their time, but I'm not allowed to directly change anything. What I can do, though, is give you a test.”

“A test?” He'd hoped his testing days were behind him in university classrooms.

“More like a task. If you can get the tears of joy—happy tears—from three people unrelated to you by blood, then you will wake up from this coma and live out your natural life.”

“. . .What if I can't?”

The Scheduler stood and tugged his shirt down. There was a downward pull to his hazy features. “You have forty-nine days from tonight. Good luck.” He left with a brief wave, stepping through the nurse who walked in to check Baekhyun's vitals.

He waited, watching himself. He looked very small with all the machines and tubes and screens around him. He assumed the sheets would be scratchy and uncomfortable; he couldn't really feel anything but a firmness, but hospitals were notorious for being a place of recovery, not rest. He seemed to be doing fine with both.

Baekhyun chuckled, biting his lip. He'd just been complaining to his mom over the phone that he wasn't getting enough sleep with his job and wedding planning.

“This isn't what I meant when I said I wanted a break. . .” he muttered. The heart monitor beeped softly in response.

A stifled gasp drew his attention to the door. His fiancée stood just inside the door, hand over her mouth. Her eyes and face were pink and wet with tears. Behind her, Baekhyun's childhood friend and future best man rubbed her elbow consolingly. His own eyes looked rather glassy, but he wore a brave face. Baekhyun had always teased him about how awful he looked when he cried.

Taeyeon sniffled and shuffled uncertainly towards the hospital bed. Baekhyun stood to give her room. “This is awful. . .”

Baekhyun nodded. “Yeah.”

“I can't. . . Baek, I don't know what to do.”

“It'll be okay.”

She sat on the folding chair beside the bed, hands pinned between her knees, an anxious habit. “I didn't want to marry you, but I never wished for you to get hurt.”

Joonmyun touched her shoulder. She laced their fingers together and smiled gratefully at him.

Baekhyun back-pedalled until his knees gave out, and he sank to the floor. What was this? Didn't she love him? They'd made a promise to one another in high school that they'd get married.

She sat back, looking tired and helpless and not at all like the vibrant, vivacious woman Baekhyun knew. “What am I supposed to do, Joonmyun?”

“All anyone can do is wait.”

“But what if he doesn't make it? Am I supposed to just move on? I feel responsible. He was on his way to meet me.” Taeyeon wiped beneath her eyes with her fingertips. “We were going to try cakes today.”

“Excuse me. . .” A nurse peeked in. “Visiting hours are ending, soon. You may visit again tomorrow.”

Baekhyun sat on the floor, dumbfounded, as his fiancée and close friend trudged out of the room. She didn't love him. And Joonmyun, one of his closest friends, was readily available to comfort Taeyeon in her grief with an arm around her shoulders and lips to her cheek.

He watched a tear slide down his cheek. The machines continued to carry on their soft mechanical symphony. Everything was peaceful on the outside.






-x-







Kim Jongin and good luck weren't always strangers.

He used to be happy and outgoing, although shy. When he was on-stage, dancing, he was a different person. Nothing could hold him down or restrain him. It was as if every ounce of energy in his life was tapped, driving to jump higher and spin faster. He thrived off the cheers, and the burn of his muscles really told him he was living.

A bad fall dropped him off the stage. The lights dimmed, but they didn't go out. He could still dance, but it wasn't nearly as wild as before. His injured body became a cage; the harder he tried to break free of it, the tighter it held him.

If he couldn't dance, there was no point in living. There was no excitement or fresh air; everything was stale and sour.

After classes one day, completely by chance, he met a classmate in a coffee house. Lu Han was pretty, with angelic features but shockingly muscular legs, and when he set up a stool and microphone and sang, Jongin felt like he could breathe deeply for the first time in a long while. The sweet smile lit up the entire coffee house and infected the patrons with happiness.

Even Jongin.

He never believed in fate, but when Lu Han rambled on about how “It must've been fate!” because “There's no way you would've even looked at me, otherwise!” Jongin had to wonder just what it was that allowed them to meet. Compared to the dark, saturated rain cloud that was Jongin, Lu Han was the noonday sun. The sun either chased away the clouds or was covered by clouds, but Lu Han warmed Jongin's raining tears and burst into the dimly lit studio he'd begun to accept as his life.

He reminded Jongin how to laugh and taught him how to love himself.

His luck ran out the Thursday they both skipped school for an outdoor concert that was rumoured to have scouting agents in the audience. Lu Han left first; they promised to meet up before his performance.

Jongin was in the shower when he got a call from Lu Han's friend, telling him in the train had derailed.

All light in his life was promptly snuffed out due to an operating error.

The funeral was sunny and bright, like Lu Han himself. Jongin couldn't bring himself to offer any condolences. His parents tried to comfort him, “Maybe this is for the best, Jongin.” Because loving a boy was the worst thing that could happen to their son.

The heavy cage of circumstance and reality fed off his energy converting it into apathy and eventually depression. He managed to graduate high school and enter college. His friends took turns forcing him to class and dance. Everything blurred together in stretching crimson tendrils time and again.

Jongin watched his life's blood trickle down the drain. It barely even hurt, anymore, which defeated the original purpose. Maybe he'd feel it if is was deeper.

Before he could try, his room mate barged in without knocking, a habit he'd developed since first discovering Jongin bleeding out in the bathtub.

“Jongin, you promised!” Sehun dropped to his knees and hauled Jongin upright from where he slumped over the tub. The blade—Sehun's, since he didn't trust Jongin with anything but electric razors—fell into the crimson ooze that lazily drained. He kept up a steady mantra of No no no no. . . as he pressed towels to Jongin's wrists. “Zitao!”

Their room mate shuffled out of his bedroom, where he'd been sleeping after a long work shift. He covered his yawn with his hand. “What is it. . . ?”

“Don't come in,” Sehun snapped. “Go call an ambulance. Jongin's hurt. Hurry!”

Minutes later, they were all piled into an ambulance, rushing to the hospital again.

The emergency room nurses remembered Jongin. After bandaging his wrists, stitching where necessary, he was admitted and stayed overnight in the emergency department for observation. Heavy sedatives keep him under until early afternoon. His therapist was called; his clothes were returned, and he was discharged and sent home.

Sehun and Zitao slept on either side of him that night, conscious of every move Jongin made and organising their schedules so one or the other could always be with him.

“Guys, what are you even doing?” They all sat on the lone sofa in the living room. Zitao had his phone in hand while Sehun played a video game and Jongin zoned in and out of awareness on new medications. “I don't need a babysitter.

“No, you don't, but you need a chaperone,” Zitao muttered from Jongin's right on the sofa.

“We just can't trust you, Jongin,” Sehun added quietly. He leaned against Jongin's side. “I don't want to find you like that again.” You used to be so happy, singing and dancing. . .”

Jongin's head lolled back so he gazed at the dingy ceiling. Yes, he used to be happy. Lately, there just wasn't much to be happy about. He hadn't been happy since before the day of the funeral, when the sun shone merrily on the black-clad mourners and a shiny new headstone.



He didn't think it was selfish. He simply had no energy, no ambition, no interests, and lived in complete darkness.

Jongin rolled onto the road, watching his skateboard rather than traffic. He heard the screaming of tires and bystanders, but he couldn't bring himself to care. Even his heart was calm. This wasn't anything unexpected, unlike someone snagging the back of his jacket and hauling him backwards.

A taxi careened into the company van. Its nose pushed in, and it tilted forward to a crunching stop.

He couldn't believe it. How dare someone ruin his death? It should've been him crumpled and mangled on the road.

The tall stranger who grabbed him shook his shoulders, asking if he was okay in accented Korean. Manners required a stiff nod and careless lie.

Jongin watched the activity from outside himself. He wasn't all there; his body was an emptying husk. His board sat in scattered pieces among the debris.

Sirens filled the air. Police, ambulance, and a fire truck roared onto the scene. Jongin slipped through the pressing crowd. The police would want to talk to him if they found him. His record always worked against him; he didn't want to go back to the psych ward.

The dorms were a brisk walk from the corner convenience store where he buys a juice. He's not thirsty.

A crosswalk countdown flashed the orange hand as he approached, head tipped back to drain the last of his drink. The blaring of horns weren't from the accident site; they grew louder and vibrated the air to envelop him.






-x-







Everything was uncomfortably bright when Baekhyun woke up. It couldn't possibly be Heaven; the gown was to itchy. Was everything a dream? The Scheduler, the task, the. . .

“Jongin.”

Jongin?

“Hey.” Someone touched his arm. He looked to his right, where a pale-faced boy offered a small smile. “You scared us, man.”

Baekhyun returned his gaze to the ceiling, trying to make sense of it all. He was in the hospital, this boy was calling him “Jongin,” and he just felt tired, not like he'd been in a car crash. Shouldn't there be some pain or bandages or something? He blinked a few times and frowned. “Help me up?”

The boy reached over the bedrail and hit a button, raising the top of the bed with a low whine until Baekhyun sat at a 30 degree angle. His legs were longer than he remembered, and either he was out in the sun for a long time, or the lighting was making him look tan. He always burned before tanning.

“You okay?”

“I think so. . . What happened?”

The boy sighed, and he looked about to cry. His eyes watered, and his face flushed. “Someone said you walked into traffic. Again. Someone pulled you away, but you hit your head.” Props to superhuman civilians. He levelled a mixed look of disappointment and helplessness at Baekhyun. “We thought you'd be fine in class. Why did you leave?”

“I-I don't know.”

“Jongin. . .”

Baekhyun wilted beneath the teary stare. “I'm sorry.” What else could he say?

“You'd better apologise to Zitao when he wakes up. He was crying for hours; a nurse finally gave him a sedative.”

Baekhyun followed the boy's inclined head to the loveseat across the room. Another boy, much too tall for such a small sofa, was curled on his side, clutching the plasticised pillow. He appeared to have been in a fight, with red rings and bruise-like colouring around his eyes.

“How long have I been here?”

“Just for the night. The doctor said it was for observation. You're probably going to be transferred to the psych ward for a few days again.”

Again? Who is this guy whose body Baekhyun's borrowing?

“Okay.” They sat in silence until Baekhyun began to fidget. “How long have you guys been here?”

“Since you were admitted. You don't really think we'd leave you alone, do you?”

“I'm sorry.”

“If you were really sorry, Kim Jongin. . .” He just sighed again, all the heat hissing out like a popped balloon. “I wish this never happened. Since Lu Han died, you're not the same. I get that. It really really hurt, but. . . I miss you. It's like you're not even here anymore. If Zitao hadn't bullied you into moving in with us, I don't think we'd ever hear from you again.”

“Sorry. . .” He stared at his hands. The fingers were thicker than Baekhyun's, with blunt, chewed nails. He picked at a hangnail.

Standing abruptly, the boy said, “I'm going to get something to eat. Are you hungry?”

Baekhyun shook his head.

“You should eat, anyway. I'll go tell the nurse you're awake and see about getting your clothes back.” He left, and Baekhyun could only lie in bed, confused.

The room was sparsely furnished, like all hospital rooms, and was void of colour. To his right, on a wheeled nightstand, sat a wallet and cellphone he assumed were Jongin's. He reached for the phone and noticed the gauze wrapped around his forearm. A matching gauntlet of sterile padding sat around his left arm as well.

Shaking his head, he took the phone and swiped the lock. It had no password. The lock screen and background were both generic images the phone company installed. His contacts were limited to immediate family, “Huang Zitao,” presumably the same Zitao on the sofa, although the contact image had a feisty lip bite and wink, and “Oh Sehun,” the boy who just left to find food.

There was little else in the phone. No photos, reminders, games; nothing.

“That won't help much.”

Baekhyun jumped, heart in his throat, at the unexpected voice. The Scheduler peered around the curtain, and he relaxed. “What am I supposed to do?” he whispered fiercely. “What is this?”

“Your task—”

“Is to get happy tears, yeah, but who is this?”

“How else did you expect to do it?”

Good point, but it didn't answer his question. Baekhyun frowned.

“His name is Kim Jongin. Don't worry about being convincing: His friends know his personality changes with his mood.”

“He sounds miserable.”

The Scheduler appeared to sigh. “He is. Maybe you can help him.”

“How?”

“You're not just borrowing his boy. You're kind of sharing it. Maybe he'll pick up on some of your experiences and get better.”

“Does he want to get better?” Baekhyun fingered at the bandages wrapped around his wrist.

“I don't know.”

Baekhyun chewed his, Jongin's, lip. “So how am I supposed to—?”

But the Scheduler was gone as quietly as he arrived, like a phantom. A figment of Baekhyun's imagination.

If only it was all a dream.



His stay in the hospital lasted a week and was followed by daily therapy sessions and then meetings every week. He couldn't talk much; he knew nothing about Jongin's past, but he did learn a few things.

Jongin used to dance until high school. He had aspirations to perform professionally. His second year of high school, he severely injured his back—Baekhyun sometimes felt strange twinges in his waist.—and met a Chinese university student some months later. He passed away in an accident, and the sadness was so deep Jongin couldn't get out of it himself.

Sehun and Zitao were childhood friends of Jongin's. They attended the same schools and convinced Jongin to move in with them, so he wasn't alone.

“They care a lot for you, Jongin. What do you think of them?”

Baekhyun shrugged. “They're nice.”

“How do you feel about them?”

He thought about his own childhood friends, who were more like his brothers, then Joonmyun, and his lips twitched. He fought the bitter frown and shrugged again with a shake of his head.



Jongin's courseload was average but filled with basic courses. Baekhyn breezed through the work and tried to come up with a plan to return to his own life. He couldn't avoid the judging, pitied gazes everyone on campus seemed to send him. Even wearing long sleeves, he felt the itch of Jongin's scars.

As if the pity wasn't bad enough, some people were plain curious. He had to resist shoving his sleeves up and thrusting his arm in people's faces to show that, yes, Kim Jongin was a cutter, but he respected the boy. Living with death hovering so close was not easy, and he found the best way he could to cope.

The first time he showered at the apartment Jongin shared with Sehun and Zitao, he stood nervously before the mirror in boxers. It felt wrong, washing another person's body, as though he was violating Jongin. He could count the cross-hatching of scars and feel the pull of the old injury and drown beneath the suffocating sadness and anxiety that permeated the apartment. Hygiene was still important, though. Jongin looked relatively healthy and needed a haircut, but he looked okay, thanks to his room mates.

There were no locks on any doors except the front door. He discovered this when Zitao ambled into the bathroom and hopped into the shower, peeking out with a curious “You coming?”

Zitao studied Chinese history and martial arts. Sehun was undeclared but leaning towards languages. They got along well, but they wore similar masks of apprehension whenever Baekhyun was in the room. Their nerves were porcupine needs along their skin, poking at him and making him itch with the urge to yell “Leave me alone! I'm fine!”

The few times he let himself laugh at a TV program, the shocked looks of concern were even worse, as if Baekhyun had lost his mind.

The first month passed slowly, and the only relief from the constant helicopter presence of concern was when he slept. Even then, the room mates sometimes slept with him,waking whenever he moved, but the warmth and closeness was comforting.



Sometimes, The Scheduler showed up in his dreams. Baekhyun felt his presence meant something he couldn't say, because he'd said that he couldn't help Baekhyun. It was his task alone.

“They both look serious and stand-offish, but they're very kind,” he told Baekhyun. “They don't like being alone.”

“That why Zitao can't shower by himself?”

“Possibly. It saves water too, right?” They bit back grins.

“How am I supposed to do this? Seriously.” Baekhyun rolled a Rubik's cube from Jongin's desk between his hands. “No matter what I do, I'm being judged like I'm some basketcase moments from going Joker.”

“Be yourself. This isn't your body or life, but you're still in it. Do what Byun Baekhyun would do.”



“Can we go to the park?”

Sehun paused their video game. “The park?”

“You know. . . It has trees and grass and little kids running around and dogs. . .?”

“Yeah, I know what it is, but why do you suddenly want to go?”

Baekhyun shrugged. “Why not?”

Sehun blinked. He was confused, but if Jongin wanted to actually go someplace, he was all for it. “I'll text Zitao to meet us.

Truthfully, he was down to a couple of days before his time was up. He wanted to enjoy them, and the weather had finally warmed up from a week of drizzles.

They finished their match—“Friends don't use shells on friends, Sehun!”—and walked to the park. Zitao met them by a fountain designed by local art students. None of them knew what it was supposed to be, which made it an excellent landmark.

Baekhyun bounded around, happy to be outside and breathing fresh air. He still felt his friends' watching him, but the gazes weren't as heavy as they used to be.

After replacing a child's dropped ice cream with a new one and waving off her mother's insisting to repay him, Baekhyun's smile froze.

A few benches away sat Joonmyun with two dogs panting at his feet.

Baekhyun could walk passed or be friendly. Joonmyun was Baekhyun's friend; he didn't know Jongin.

He approached the man with a smile. “Hi! Are your dogs friendly?” They both were.

Joonmyun returned the smile kindly. “Yes. You can pet them, if you'd like.”

Baekhyun sat on the grass and let the overeager dogs climb over him, tripping over themselves and yipping ecstatically as they sniffed and licked every part of Baekhyun they could reach. Maybe they knew who he really was. Leaning his face away from the kisses, Baekhyun asked their names.

“Byul and Ginger. I'm sorry about them. . .”

“It's okay! I love dogs!” he exclaimed. He didn't mind the wet kisses at all. He gave them both rigorous pets—Byul even fell over, hind leg thumping—until Joonmyun excused himself politely and continued on his walk.

Baekhyun watched quietly for a while, then flopped back on the grass. It still hurt, knowing Taeyeon didn't really love him, but it hurt because he had been so excited to get married and be with someone he cared about. Thinking about it, they really had been like siblings more than lovers. Affectionate but civil, never crossing into deep intimacy.

Sehun sat beside him in the grass; Zitao stood at their feet. A congested gasp drew Baekhyun's attention.

Zitao had his face in his hands, and his shoulders shook.

“Tao?” Baekhyun sat up on his knees. “You okay?”

“Y-Yeah. . .” Zitao rubbed his eyes and slowly dropped to a crouch. “It's just been so long. . . So long since I've seen you smile.”

A hiccupy whine had Baekhyun's head whipping to look behind him. Sehun was biting his lip and frowning deeply, fighting tears. “What's wrong with you, now‽”

“I didn't want to jinx it by saying anything, but I've really missed your laughter.”

“Oh my God, you guys. . .” Baekhyun's chin trembled, and he laughed. “We look like idiots, crying in the middle of the park!”

“Who cares? I can't believe how happy I am!” Zitao tackled Baekhyun and Sehun in a hug. Passers-by cast curious looks their way. Mothers with their children gave them a wide berth. Girls pulled out their cell phones and stifled giggles.



That evening, after a heavy and very satisfying meal, the three of them fell asleep in the living room. Sprawled out on the floor, Baekhyun felt someone touch his shoulder.

The Scheduler crouched beside him. “Congratulations.”

“For what?” He was pretty sure he was dreaming, but he still whispered.

“Your task. You're done.”

“I am?” Baekhyun shook his head slowly. “But only Sehun and Zitao. . .”

“And me.” It was like looking into a mirror. Jongin's face had become familiar, and The Scheduler grinned, wet cheeks glistening in the moonlight that squeezed in through the blinds.

You're the Scheduler?”

“Yeah. It's deep in my subconscious, I guess, but. . .yeah.”

“Why didn't you say so?”

“Against the rules.”

“You said helping me was against the rules, too, but you told me about Jongin, about you, and Sehun and Zitao. . .”

“Don't tell anyone, but I wanted to help you.”

“Why?”

“Your accident was my fault. I felt guilty and hated myself even more then usual, but I felt something I hadn't in a really long time.”

“What?”

The Scheduler, Jongin, dipped his chin down and covered his face with his hands, muffling his response.

What?”

He was blushing. “I said, 'Attraction.'”

Baekhyun heart stuttered a little. He reached up to Jongin's face but his hand passed through the empty air and hit the arm of the sofa, jostling Sehun. He snuffled in his sleep and tossed onto his side. Baekhyun closed his eyes and didn't dream again.







-x-







Something was beeping repeatedly, soft but persistent. It sounded like his mattress was covered in plastic, an the sheets were crisply rough, although he remembered falling asleep on the living room rug.

A deep, familiar voice spoke softly, “Hey. . .” and Baekhyun opened his eyes to find the Scheduler, Kim Jongin, sitting on the bed by his hip. “Sleeping Beauty finally wakes up. How do you feel?”

“Like Rip Van Winkle.”

“The beard kind of suits you.”

“What‽” His hands flew to his face, but his panic died down when Jongin tried to cover his smile with his hand. “You jerk. If I wasn't in sudden pain, I would hit you.”

The smile disappeared beneath wide eyes. “Oh! I-I'll get the nurse.”

Baekhyun grabbed the back of Jongin's shirt before he got up. “Wait. There's a call button right here.”

“So use it.” Jongin chewed his lip worriedly.

“But I want to talk to you. This is the first time I'm meeting you in person while conscious.”

Jongin removed Baekyun's hand from his shirt but held onto it. He ran his thumb over the knuckles. “I'm not going anywhere anymore.” He met Baekhyun's eyes. The heart monitor beeped faster in the following silence. When his head finally caught up to his heart, Jongin blushed scarlet and stood fast. “Except to find the nurse. I'll be right back!”

“I'll be waiting for you.”

Life was no longer a fairy tale, but the people in it could still make it perfect.



END