From: Your Secret Santa
Word Count: 9,873
Summary: Woohyun thinks it's ironic, how he's studied medicine and science half his life, yet a novel teaches him more than he'll ever learn through his courses.
'i would rather have eyes that cannot see; ears that cannot hear; lips that cannot speak, than a heart that cannot love.'
Woohyun balances a briefcase precariously on one knee, edging the glass door open with a shoulder while slipping sheets of runaway paper back into their folders. He blinks back the brief comet of white that stabs at his eyes when the sunlight bounces off the glass, relishes instead in the welcoming breeze of the air-conditioning system as the door swings shut behind him (it's not as cold as he'd like it to be, but granted, it's an early morning and the cafe's been open just ten minutes, so Woohyun excuses that).
He makes his way past a rather harassed-looking young woman, blonde hair sticking out at awkward angles from an overdose of hairspray (and frustration, too), hurriedly chomping down a sandwich while on the phone. An elderly grandmother sits by the slightly frosted window, a mug nestled cosily between her fingers, translucent swirls of steam from the hot liquid coiling in the mid-autumn air. A little girl - her granddaughter, Woohyun presumes - giggles excitedly as she climbs onto the nearest chair, tracing hearts and stars and unicorns (promises of youth and folly, not a single care in the world) on the glass.
If he was completely honest with himself, Woohyun doesn't really hold many a thing dear in his life. Only simplistic things, because simplistic things here (now) are old. Whatever's new is complex, and whatever's complex is from after Elixir. Woohyun frowns at the thought, finally hears the click of the lock on his briefcase; Elixir, even thinking the word leaves a sour taste on his tongue. This cafe was one of the things he did like, though, with its rustic decor and wooden furniture and the little oddities the owner's lined the shelves with - classic literature, tiny teddy bears, candelabras, dried flowers, glass jars. Oh, and the food here is to die for, he reminds himself.
He slides into one of the high stools by the counter, prods the barista dutifully cleaning the muffin display. "Yah, Howon-ah, what do you have for me today?" he asks, in a sing-song voice. Howon shoots him a glare that doesn't quite match the smile that's broken out on his face, and Woohyun knows this man would never fall prey to anger. "You know, I'm tempted to give you the most expensive food on the menu every time you ask me that," his long-time best friend sighs, wiping the last corner of the tray and giving Woohyun a high-five in greeting.
Howon tosses the cloth into the sink, ignoring the pointed glower he receives when he comments about how Woohyun's briefcase is less than fashionable. "I can't exactly be carrying a backpack into the office, okay," Woohyun says defensively. A plate of waffles slides into his field of vision, warm and irresistibly fluffy, butter melting deliciously into the honey and syrup (just the way he likes it).
"Y'know, I would've thought spending hours and hours in this lonely cafe would give you guys inspiration to think up something new for your menu," Woohyun remarks, but he generously smothers half a pancake in honey and swallows it whole regardless. "I mean, you're good at cooking and you're creative, couldn't you put forth new ideas to, I don't know, sales or something? What with your cousin being the owner and all, you could pull some strings and whip up new breakfast deals!"
Howon rolls his eyes and completes the finishing touches on Woohyun's coffee. "You're eating it, aren't you?" he sighs, but the question comes out as a statement more than anything. Woohyun nods contentedly with his mouth full of food; Howon laughs resignedly and watches the regular customer munch down his breakfast. He gestures towards the briefcase, "So, does the esteemed cardiologist Dr. Nam have someone new in his custody?"
Woohyun snorts and sips at the foam on his coffee. "You mean infamous," he retorts. "But yeah, one new guy. He was officially admitted yesterday when I wasn't at the office; Sunggyu faxed his files over." He smiles, and it's terribly bitter (from his work or the espresso, Howon isn't too sure).
Howon decides to play with fire (the atmosphere around him doesn't light up much though; it grows darker, in fact). "So... was this guy anything like that last one that came to see you? I mean, the one that..." he pauses, struggling to find the right words. His gaze drops to the counter, suddenly finding the grains on the wood particularly interesting, before meeting Woohyun's gaze, "thought you were like all the other doctors."
Woohyun gulps down the remaining liquid in the porcelain mug; the coffee travels down his throat, scalding his tongue, burning the roof of his mouth (Woohyun wonders if it's somehow managed to enter his heart too; it hurts). "I've only seen him once from afar. Didn't look like the type though," he says, and there's a tone of finality in his voice that warns Howon not to cross any more lines.
Howon obliges and waves Woohyun off, keeps his questions for another breakfast conversation.
Woohyun shrugs out of his coat the moment he gets into his office - he doesn't even really know why he bothers wearing them - and plops down in his chair. There's a knock on his door and his secretary enters; Sunggyu is a decent young man, older than Woohyun by only a year or two. Woohyun's always been tempted to ask him what exactly he's doing in the secretarial field, considering he has the qualifications and determination to get him somewhere much farther. (He likes Sunggyu's work ethic and efficiency though, and they get along fairly well as friends, so he never bothers.)
"You're... not late today, which is a pleasant surprise?" Sunggyu glances at his watch, then makes a face at Woohyun's mock-appalled expression, "Here are the documents you'll need for today. Just to remind you, there's that new study desk you wanted coming in later this week, and your appointment with your new patient - you did get that fax, right? - is at ten."
Woohyun slumps back in his seat as Sunggyu leaves the room, pulls out the files from his briefcase. He skims the first few pages of reports and past medical records, stares at the profile page instead, takes in the name scrawled in his own terrible penmanship and black ink.
Kim Myungsoo, he reads.
Woohyun pulls his woollen scarf tighter around him as the autumn wind hits him in gusts and mumbles to himself about how the weather forecast was wrong when it predicted fine weather this morning. His office is two blocks away from the state hospital; it's not too long a walk, it's convenient, and Woohyun's grateful for the ten or so minutes he gets to immerse himself in his own thoughts.
It's far too chilly to think of anything other than getting out of the cold today though, and he breathes a quiet sigh of relief the moment he crosses the threshold of the main entrance of the hospital. He greets two blushing, giggling nurses with a wink and a playful 'good morning' (it's become a trademark of his, somewhat, and old habits die hard anyway), checking his smartphone for the room number he'd input earlier this morning. He takes the elevator to the third floor and finds himself outside Room 328 in no time at all.
Woohyun takes a deep breath - he hasn't had a new patient in, he really doesn't remember, seven, eight months? - and knocks on the wooden door before entering. The decor in the room is sparse - a single rug on the floor, a bed, a closet, a small study desk. It's the most basic room package the hospital has to offer for long-term patients, and he bites back the temptation to ask why Kim Myungsoo hasn't gotten himself a more comfortable one; normal heart patients get spoiled with lavish rooms and tip-top service.
It takes Woohyun a while to realize there's actually a boy – Kim Myungsoo, Woohyun reckons – in the room, curled up on a one-seater sofa by the window, barely big enough for his lanky body. He looks like he isn't much younger than Woohyun, two years tops, he's sure, with jet-black hair tinged dark brown by the sunlight streaming in through the open window. He's too absorbed in the novel he's reading to notice Woohyun standing in the doorway, eyes fixated only on the print.
The boy looks up only when Woohyun shuffles his weight from one foot to the other, clearing his throat. "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't notice you," he says, sliding his bookmark in between the pages he was reading. Woohyun takes it as permission to enter and shuts the door behind him, pulls the desk chair over to where he was on the couch. The boy extends a hand, the corners of his lips curving upwards ever so slightly, "Kim Myungsoo. So you're the doctor?"
"Nam Woohyun," he greets. Woohyun takes his hand and shakes it lightly, letting go much later than he would normally (he somewhat enjoys the electricity that travels between their hands, and someday he's determined to find out how static does that). A grin breaks out on his face, but Woohyun silently berates himself for letting his guard down and quickly replaces it with an indifferent expression. "And yes, I'm here to check in on you for today, before we begin consultation and tests tomorrow."
Myungsoo hums in acknowledgement and gazes out the window, at whatever beyond, and they sit in awkward silence for what could've been hours. "So you do know about me, right? What I do... um, differently?" Woohyun asks, breaking the porcelain quiet (although what he really wants to ask is who are you what do you do where are you from what do you like).
Myungsoo catches on quickly; he looks bright, "Yeah. Otherwise I wouldn't be here," he says, and Woohyun guesses he's a straightforward person of few but meaningful words. Woohyun nods slowly and leans back, taking in the boy sitting before him. Myungsoo had a flawless face in every sense of the word - sharp eyes, an intense stare that would've looked animalistic on anyone else, high cheekbones, perfectly sculpted nose, defined features, plush lips— Woohyun stops short and resists the urge to hit himself (ignores the warring between what were you thinking and get to know this person better in his head).
"So what's that you're reading?" he asks instead, nodding in the direction of the novel Myungsoo was still holding. Myungsoo hands it to him; Woohyun reads the few lines on the back of the hardcover book. "A self-help book," the boy sitting opposite him says, adjusting the sleeves of his jacket, "Written by a heart patient and chock full of quotes about the heart."
Woohyun hands the book back to him, but mentally takes note of the author and title – he'd do well with a new, promising read like this one, and it helps with work too, so Sunggyu wouldn't complain. "You're okay with staying in a room like this?" he asks. "If you're going to be under my care, you'll have to stay in the hospital much longer than others would. I mean, you don't want a bigger room or something like that? Normal heart patients spoil themselves crazy with the suites that no one uses anymore. Their families all want only the best."
He isn't sure, but he thinks he sees Myungsoo's expression darken ever so slightly, his steady gaze suddenly flickering elsewhere. Before he can make much of it, Myungsoo's replaced it with his stoic yet child-like face again. "I'm fine. I actually like it like this," he answers.
Woohyun only nods again, then notices the time – he has another appointment in slightly more than half an hour. "Okay, if you say so. Listen, I've got a meeting soon, so I should get going," he says, standing up. He's halfway to the door when he does a double take and pulls out his business card and a pen, scribbling his number onto the back. "If you need anything, ring me."
Myungsoo takes the card and stares at the number for a good while, then seems to notice something. "But this is a cellphone number. Your office operates on a cell number?"
Woohyun hesitates, takes a deep breath. Why exactly did I give him my cell number anyway? The office number is good enough… it's not like he'll be ringing in the middle of the night. He answers differently, though, "No, but just in case something crops up after office hours."
Myungsoo smirks, tongue-in-cheek and eyes sparkling. "So do you do this to all your patients, or just the girls? Or… don't tell me, just the men?"
Woohyun resists the urge to hit him. "Very funny. See you tomorrow!" he calls (more enthusiastic than he'd meant it to be). He ponders his behaviour the entire journey back to his office – because Dr. Nam Woohyun certainly doesn't get flustered, much less in front of patients – and it takes walking headfirst into the glass door of his office to snap out of it. He decides he hasn't found an answer yet, but eases his mind with a substitute instead, a line he'd read from the back of Myungsoo's book.
The head is the heart's fool.
"Yes, I know, no – but you were supposed to help me with that! Fine, yeah, I will, geez. Yeah, bye." Woohyun stabs the 'End Call' button; as much as Sunggyu's a wonderful secretary and possibly the only person who'd put up with him in the office, Woohyun finds that the man took his work very seriously (calling after hours to nag).
He flops back down onto the sizeable couch, a glass of champagne in hand, as he stares out the glass walls of his lush condominium unit. It's a beautiful night; the shimmering lights from the high-rise buildings around him contrast with the black of night, and he can just make out the bridge lights beyond the horizon. Seoul lay below him, the city that never sleeps, sparkling in blues and golds and reds and every colour imaginable. It's a pretty sight, Woohyun won't deny that, but he always finds it rather lacklustre because he doesn't get to see the one thing he wants most – stars.
He turns away, sinks back into the sofa. His gaze falls upon the framed photos hung up in the dining area, pictures of him at medical conventions, award ceremonies, prestigious universities, all from more than three years ago. He hasn't smiled like he's done in those photos in a long time. (Woohyun hasn't had his picture taken since.)
Woohyun remembers this three years ago, when he'd been at his peak – cardiologist extraordinaire Nam Woohyun. He was the sole hope of heart patients around Seoul, the miracle doctor, they called him. It was 2023 when he'd last heard that, the year things started falling apart for mankind. The way people lived, the lifestyle they carried itself, was suicidal to begin with – he supposes that was when karma decided it'd stop waiting and take it out on humans for all the sins they've committed. People started having numerous, deadly problems with their bodies: brains, livers, lungs, entire bodily systems, anything and everything. Of course, that's how humans had been living their entire lives, but the numbers increased nearly threefold overnight, and it was permanent pandemic of sorts. (A pandemic that could only evolve.)
But alas – and Woohyun allows himself a smirk at the irony – miracle doctors or not, practitioners worldwide were only a skill. Mankind began living on someone else's death; there couldn't possibly be millions of organs to match the millions of patients. Woohyun cringes as he remembers how the waiting list was a mark of death; people either died from pre-planned murders when they were too near the top, brutally and messily killed off for being the lucky ones to get a transplant tomorrow, or died waiting for a surgery that they knew would never come. Dr. Nam, they'd ask, Did someone die today? Anyone at all? Can they be salvaged?
The number of deaths skyrocketed as hope plummeted, even family homicides by the desperate and mass murders by black market traders, hoping to salvage usable organs to sell.
Yet in their darkest hour, in stepped 'the saviour of generations, the pioneer of revolution, the epitome of medical brilliance'. Jang Dongwoo was a Korean professor who'd been studying medicine all his life in Canada, a child genius who'd memorized the elemental table while all his friends were still playing with wooden alphabet blocks.
Jang Dongwoo was the creator of Elixir, and the end to medicine as mankind knew it.
Elixir was a cure 'tailored to tailor', as it was marketed, an artificially-intelligent drug designed to adapt to viruses in the human body and eliminate them by all means necessary. Equipped with near-invincible defence, it would heal and repair even the most broken of organs, single-handedly putting all donors and researchers out of business with its all-purpose capabilities. It could've been used for anything at all, from minor colds and fevers to final-stage brain cancer and a failing heart.
Woohyun takes a sip of his champagne, clicks his tongue at the sour taste playing in his mouth. He steps out onto the balcony, letting the cold night air envelop his senses. He remembers the day Elixir's ultimate flaw was leaked to the public – the medical world reeled back in shock, the tabloids had a field day, people worldwide began demanding answers.
He remembers reading the report, even, penned by a medical team and selling billions of copies around the world – while Elixir was a revolutionary, efficient drug, it was also far too intelligent. Those literally escaping death, patients plagued with chronic diseases, were subjected to take shots of the cure regularly for the rest of their lives to sustain them and keep their previous diseases at bay. Elixir would slowly begin to conquer its recovering host, holding a life in its hands, stealing the senses of speech, hearing and sight in stages.
Woohyun recalls the most recent statistics: in South Korea alone, slightly less than half the population can neither see, hear, nor speak as of December 2025. Braille and sign language was made compulsory in schools; adults were strongly advised (and Woohyun would always scoff at the term used by the government, brainwashed and pushed was more like it) into taking classes. English is no longer the official international language recognized by the world.
Seoul may still shine at night, he thinks, as he looks over the city, but it's become much too quiet a metropolitan. The lights are still as glaringly beautiful as ever, but it's muted, unlike the noisy, bustling city it was once.
Woohyun still vividly remembers the day he attended the first of Korea's annual medical conventions after the release of Elixir. Other doctors and professors had endless words of praise for the drug, pledging to use it for the rest of their careers, worshipping Professor Jang for his brilliant invention. When it was his turn to step up to the podium, he'd almost laughed at their expectant faces; he'd announced he wouldn't be using it. He'd stick to the tried and tested, to transplants, to normal medicine. He'd called his mother the morning after, to tell her he'd made the headlines and the evening news.
He checks his clock on the wall; the bookshop nearby might still be open. He could do with that book tonight.
Woohyun stretches as he watches Myungsoo eat his lunch, even quieter than when he'd seen him yesterday, exhaustion from the tests they've been running all morning. Myungsoo had insisted on taking a walk and stopped by his office earlier this morning for consultation, before tests at the hospital. (Sunggyu had raised an eyebrow, You let him walk here? he'd mouthed, appalled. He insisted! Woohyun gestured back defensively, and flinches at the menacing gaze Sunggyu gave him that clearly indicated a talk later.)
Neither of them says a word, and the only sounds in the room are the tinkling of cutlery and slurping of soup, so Woohyun takes the opportunity to observe his new patient. He finds new things today – how long and slender Myungsoo's fingers are, how defined his collarbone is.
Myungsoo catches him staring and offers him a slice of apple from one of the plastic containers. Woohyun grins sheepishly, but takes it anyway, munching gratefully on the sweet fruit. He's feeling daring today though – there's something, something about Myungsoo that makes him want to find out everything about the boy – and he asks, "So tell me about yourself."
Myungsoo raises an eyebrow, finishes the last of his porridge. "Can't you get that from my files?" His steady gaze meets Woohyun's properly for the first time since they've met, and Woohyun thinks the slight greyish-gold tinge in his black eyes are so, so beautiful.
"I can, but I don't mean that. I wasn't talking about your schools or your hometown or whatever, I meant your backstory. Where were you before this?" he says, and Myungsoo stays still for many moments. Finally, he leans back into his pillows and grabs the book he'd been reading before (the book Woohyun had completely finished yesterday night) from the nightstand.
When Myungsoo next speaks, his voice is soft and quiet, crestfallen, somewhat, and all of a sudden, he seemed more like a lost child than anything. "I've lived on my own since my first year in junior high school, and yeah, that sounds daunting for someone still so young, but staying home with my family isn't the best thing ever either."
Woohyun's gaze gently urges him to continue, "My father disappeared when I was still in kindergarten, left without a word one day after he'd dropped me off. I haven't heard from him even once since then. My mom was a drug addict and alcoholic; she'd go to bars and weed joints and come back with men that weren't my dad. She was wasted half the time; she'd always hit me. When I was 12, Social Security removed me from her care. Their follow-up was lax and they didn't care if I was in a proper orphanage or on the streets; I ended up staying on my own with the money the government sends me monthly," he shrugs.
He takes a swig of water, his gaze flickering to Woohyun's face. "It wasn't enough to pay the school fees, so I just dropped out. I never did well anyway, so it wasn't much of a difference to them. I don't like a lot of things, so I don't know, I really only use the money for food, mostly, since the landlord of the place I used to rent was letting me stay for free. Maybe just books… and I like photography," he finishes, as if out of a lack of things to say for a proper conclusion.
Woohyun gulps; this is a lot more than he'd originally bargained for. "So that would mean you're staying here on the government's money, then?" he asks, knows he's pushing the limits, but Myungsoo doesn't seem to care, nodding in answer. (But Woohyun thinks again, with someone in his situation… what is there left to care for?)
Myungsoo's voice is even softer when he answers, "I like it like this. Our house wasn't furnished much either. This reminds me of home," he replies, and Woohyun sees the restrained liquid in his eyes threatening to overflow. His heart aches at the sight; the calm, composed Myungsoo from yesterday, unravelled and vulnerable and bare before him, heart so bitterly broken over and over again.
It stays silent for what might've been hours or days, Woohyun taking in what Myungsoo's said, and Myungsoo coming to terms with it himself. Woohyun finally musters the strength and the courage to ask him one final question (any more, and he'd break too, he thinks). "Why did you come here? Why didn't you just pay for Elixir and be done with it? Why did you come to me instead?" Woohyun bites back the tremble in his voice, tells himself to get his act together.
Myungsoo allows himself a small smile then, and flips open the book, searching the index for a particular page. When he finds it, he shifts it to his side so Woohyun can see the text.
Faith is an oasis in the heart which will never be reached by the caravan of thinking.
"I believe in you," Myungsoo answers simply.
Woohyun comes to like not having too many patients; his schedule is almost always uncluttered and it's easy to reschedule appointments. It's easier to meet Myungsoo that way, on the few days a week he's allowed to leave the hospital for the entire day. They meet almost anywhere: the library, the park, the train station - anywhere, really, if only to talk about their day, about a new book they'd bought, about recent headlines in the news.
He likes their conversations – there are always poignant but comfortable silences, like Woohyun's known Myungsoo all his life. He remembers the one time they'd bought coffee and just stared out at the Han River, spending the entire night in silence and warm breaths and the muffled city sounds. Regardless, they learn a lot about each other, and Woohyun knows how he prefers chocolate to vanilla, how he'd never use a digital camera if he could help it with his DSLR, how he secretly indulges in a romance novel or two in between his science fiction explorations, how his friend had taught him to play the guitar. (He likes these lighter facts; his past was never spoken of again.)
Woohyun thinks, as he gets off the train, somewhere along the way, between the sixth and seventh fact he'd learnt, he's fallen for Kim Myungsoo.
They've agreed to meet again today, at the walkway by the bay. By the time Woohyun arrives, panting from the jog from the train station, Myungsoo's already there snapping photographs of anything and everything, of the sky, the sea, the streets, the dainty shops here. Woohyun watches him from afar (his personal walking epitome of perfection); Myungsoo seemed to take pictures so effortlessly, yet Woohyun can tell every single shot is framed carefully, with a lot of thought put into it about the right filter, mode, angle.
Myungsoo's just done reviewing his shot of a miniature dollhouse display in the window of a store when Woohyun pokes him from the back. "Hey," the younger boy greets, turning his camera off and spinning around to face him with a small smile. Woohyun grins back, "Hey. Don't let me stop you, keep taking photos if you'd like. I'll walk with you; I've never actually understood how those bulky cameras work, I use digital ones that do all the work for me, so I'd want to see how the pros do it!"
Myungsoo gives him one of his rare chuckles and obliges; they stroll down the walkway, the calming sea breeze blowing through their hair, quiet chatter occasionally reaching their ears. "Can I ask you something?" he says, after his fourth shot of the yachts by the pier. Woohyun nods, "Anything." Anything at all, anything you want to know about me.
"I'm sorry, I know this is a sensitive subject," Myungsoo starts, hesitating slightly. "Is it true? I mean… how you supposedly fell from glory. The reason why no one's been coming to see you lately." Woohyun stares off into the distance, takes in the shapes of the clouds for a bit, watching a little girl run off with a helium balloon in her hands.
He shrugs (trying to act) nonchalantly. "I guess. Back then, I was getting lots of attention as the only doctor who'd said I wouldn't use Elixir. Of course, lots of people didn't like that, and they scrambled at any excuse to put me out of business. I'm glad there are some people who stuck with me though, mostly old patients," he sighs.
Woohyun debates on whether or not to continue, but he figures he owes Myungsoo as much. "I was in the middle of a transplant, but there was a screw-up with the anaesthesia. You know what happens after, right? It was all over the papers." Myungsoo only nods, and takes a photo of a seagull zooming across the sky, then turns off the camera and hangs it around his neck by the strap. "Why didn't you use Elixir?" he asks, and Woohyun's taken aback because it's the first time anyone's asked him that.
He ponders his answer for a moment. "I don't know. I just didn't like the idea, and it seemed right at the time. It's stupid, I know," a sheepish grin crosses his face, "Then the medical findings about the after-effects of Elixir was released and that kind of solidified my thoughts. Doesn't it hurt not to be able to talk or see or hear? All three of them at a go?"
"It's not stupid. You stuck with what you believed, and I think that's reason enough," Myungsoo answers, and the sincerity in his voice stabs at Woohyun's heart. He decides he won't tell him how he's the only person who's ever given him his vote of confidence so openly like that, how he's the only person not to tell him he was immature and far too young to be an establish doctor. The grin on Woohyun's face matches the shy smile on Myungsoo's, and they both stop to stare out at the sea for a moment.
Woohyun secretly steals glances at Myungsoo without him knowing, the boy's eyes following the motions of the sea waves. Love really does turn up in the most unexpected places.
Howon's just turned the 'Closed' sign over when Woohyun barges into the cafe. "Woohyun, we're closed," he sighs resignedly. "I'm going home."
Yet Howon finds himself at the counter ten minutes later, half the cafe lights on and a plate of leftover cake he'd been planning to take home on the table, half-devoured by Woohyun. His best friend was talking about a certain Kim Myungsoo, the new patient from before, and Howon's seen him once when they came for lunch together.
"You love him, don't you?" he asks, and Woohyun stops short. There's a pointed silence, and Woohyun feels Howon's eyes on him, then, "Yeah. Yeah, I do."
Howon lets out a quiet 'mm' in acknowledgement, then asks, "Have you told him yet?"
Woohyun shakes his head. "Nah. It's totally taboo, isn't it, though? I mean, a doctor-patient relationship… I might as well just be put out of business now, if people ever found out about it. I don't even know if he feels the same way."
Howon flips through the book Woohyun's been carrying, and he finds a quote particularly interesting on page 639. He slides the book in front of Woohyun and points to the sentence: There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart. Pursue those.
"Go tell him," Howon smiles.
It's past visiting hours, but Woohyun knows Howon's right – it's now or never, tell him or lose him. He slips into Myungsoo's room (feeling a tad guilty about the abuse of power when he'd told the nurse he was doing a check on his patients), hoping against hope that he's still awake, and true enough, he's standing by the window again, arms propped up on the windowsill, gazing out at the night sky.
Myungsoo turns around and Woohyun's torn between wanting to reel back and lunging forward to touch him – he looks like an angel, dressed in shades of white and grey, perfect face almost glowing under the moonlight. "It's pretty late for a doctor's visit, though?" he teases, but pets the spot next to him, smiling slightly.
Woohyun shuts the door behind him and silently locks it; the last thing he needs is anyone walking in on them both. He moves to stand next to Myungsoo, brushing away the thin, cream curtains. "You're still awake, though? It's awfully late," he remarks, and he wills his beating heart to silence. Myungsoo shrugs and brushes his hair out of his eyes; Woohyun belatedly notices it's gotten much longer compared to when they first met.
"I don't normally sleep when the hospital says lights out. Sometimes I read, sometimes I just stare out the window like this. Yes, I'm a very boring person," he laughs lightly. I don't think you're boring at all, Woohyun wants to say, I've never wanted to know so much about one person before.
Myungsoo turns to face him. "So? It's too late for a doctor's visit and you and I both know that; you haven't told me the reason you're here," he says, then, in a softer voice, "Did something happen?" Woohyun's tempted to shake his head, say No, I'm fine, insist it really is meant to be a doctor's visit and leave, but his entire body refuses to move.
Woohyun doesn't think pioneer scientists were telling the truth when they said the brain would send messages to receptors in muscle cells to initiate movement; it doesn't seem to be working, and he doesn't quite like the idea of his brain not functioning. He secretly thinks it should've been the heart that sends messages instead (and he should publish a finding and theory about this), when he lifts his hand to touch Myungsoo's cheek.
He expects Myungsoo to flinch, pull away, jump, looked the slightest bit shocked, even, but he simply meets Woohyun's stare (Woohyun's always liked his unpredictability), still wearing a beautiful half-smile. "Yes?" Myungsoo asks, and his voice is no louder than a whisper. Woohyun contemplates what to say, although everything's threatening to come out in a rush, I love you I want you please tell me you love me too can I hold you do you feel the same way.
But no words come out, so Woohyun opts to lean forward and brush his lips against Myungsoo's instead. It's a feathery touch, mouths ghosting over each others, but it burns Woohyun's lips nevertheless, and he enjoys the sensation. He presses Myungsoo up against the windowsill, kisses him again, this time deeper yet still cautious about the invisible lines they're about to step. Myungsoo chuckles breathlessly, brushing his fingers against Woohyun's cheek. "This is so taboo," he whispers.
Woohyun presses in for a third kiss. "Are you worried?" he asks in a low murmur, pulling away just enough. Their foreheads touch, and Myungsoo gives him the first real smile since they've met. "Did I say that? What took you so long to tell me?" he sighs, in between kisses.
Woohyun brings his lips to Myungsoo's one final time, then pulls away for real. "I didn't think you'd feel the same way. I mean, like you said… this is such an unconventional relationship?" he says, meekly.
"For every love, there is a heart somewhere to receive it. We're just lucky we happen to be close by. I don't have to travel half the world for my recipient, that'd be such a pain."
Woohyun punches him on the shoulder, but he's grateful it's dark – Myungsoo can't see the crimson spreading across his cheeks, or the idiotically wide grin he's got on.
There's sharp rapping on his door and Woohyun peers over the edge of his laptop to see Sunggyu. "Your boyfriend," Woohyun can tell Sunggyu's holding down his giggles and berates himself for ever deciding to trust his secretary, "is here for his appointment. Don't make me clean up after you two," he warns, and Woohyun chokes on nothing.
"It's not like that!" he yells as Myungsoo shuts the door behind him. "What's not like what?" he asks, taking a seat opposite Woohyun, who buries his face in his hands and shuts down his computer. "Nothing, just remind me to cut his pay this month," he sighs resignedly, massaging his temples.
Myungsoo rolls his eyes. "Why did you want to see me?" he asks. He looks weaker than usual, paler with dark circles under his once-sparkling dark brown orbs. It hurts Woohyun to look at him this way (hurts Woohyun to think it's because he can't do a good enough job, hurts Woohyun to think it's because he's not strong enough to fight nature).
Woohyun hesitates, doesn't know how he should say this; he's never the best at passing news on to his patients, and more than once he's considered switching careers to accommodate that. "Myungsoo-yah, I know you've felt it these few months. Your heart's getting weaker, and I know we've tried switching your medicine to stronger ones, but you and I both know it's not working," he says quietly, and the light atmosphere from before dissipates into nothing.
Myungsoo looks away. "I know, I've seen it coming, I—" Woohyun cuts him off, leans over his desk to stare Myungsoo in the eye. "Your heart is failing. I don't have stronger medicine than this, and it's catching up to you," he says sternly. Then, in a much gentler voice, "Please, please, listen to me. Take the Elixir shot. It's the only way," he begs, and he thinks he sees the same helpless, reluctant desperation he's feeling reflected in Myungsoo's eyes.
"No," Myungsoo calmly replies.
It hurts too much to lose you, please don't do this, Woohyun thinks. "Look, I know it's the one thing I've spent my whole life championing against, but—" Woohyun's mouth snaps shut, whatever else he'd wanted to say flits out of his mind as Myungsoo suddenly doubles over, clutching painfully at his chest. He falls over onto the floor, curling up against the foot of the desk, wheezing.
Woohyun lunges over, shaking Myungsoo frantically; he's seen this before, this scene, seen something like this time and time again, where they're tightly curled up, losing themselves in the darkness, fading into unconsciousness, and slowly they start to loosen, begin to turn cold—
He digs ferociously in the one drawer of the file cabinet he's never touched all his career, pulls a syringe out, and jabs it into Myungsoo's arm. He watches as Myungsoo's fingers begin to unclench, features smoothening out, eyes fluttering shut. Woohyun knows the pain is going away, that Myungsoo will lose consciousness for days, but it's worth it, enough to keep him by his side—
The door opens and Sunggyu enters, "I heard loud banging and I thought it sounded like your drawers were falling out so I thought I'd check—" the older man trails off at the sight of Woohyun crumpled (broken) on the floor, Myungsoo unconscious next to him, a syringe sticking out of his right arm.
"Woohyun-ah," Sunggyu says, and it sounds more like a shaking whisper than anything, "What's in the syringe?"
Woohyun doesn't think it's fair, how flawless Myungsoo looks even when he's out cold, his lips pale against his marble white face. He holds Myungsoo's wrist instead of his fingers or anything else, he needs to feel his pulse, needs to know he's still there. All he's been doing is sleeping; the times he is awake, he's either eating or staring out the window or smiling tiny (terribly broken) smiles at Woohyun.
"Are you going to sit here cutting off my circulation forever?" Myungsoo whispers suddenly, in between large, wheezy breaths. Woohyun leans forward, willing his tears not to fall, steadies his voice. "Shut up," he whispers, clutching tighter at his wrist (and Woohyun's not sure if he's doing this to spite Myungsoo or just because he needs it). "How are you feeling?"
Myungsoo makes a face. "It feels like I got thrown into a big blender, to be honest," he murmurs, eyes folding into crescents, and Woohyun feels like tearing himself apart. Myungsoo's fingers clench lightly around Woohyun's other hand; it's the most energy he can muster now.
"So what were you doing with spare shots of Elixir in your office?" Myungsoo whispers, and he doesn't sound demanding, he's as straightforward as ever, but his voice is pleading Woohyun for answers, answers that Woohyun isn't sure he can give. He doesn't answer, but there are a million and one thoughts running around in his head, I have a lot of things I can't come to terms with yet, he wants to say.
Myungsoo smiles though, and says weakly, "It's okay, you don't have to tell me now. But if I could hazard a guess, I'd say you haven't come to terms with the mistake you made, way back then." Woohyun hates how Myungsoo can read him like an open book with its pages torn out for the world to read. He buries his face in Myungsoo's hands, breathing in the minty scent. "I love you," he whispers, and it pains him; he has no right to love. Myungsoo traces small circles with his thumb; "I love you too," he says, flashing him an exhausted smile.
"B-But how could you still? I've taken away everything from you. You came to me with the intention of not using Elixir, that's the sole reason and I've breached that and I've put the serum in you and now you can't get it out and you're stuck like this forever—" Woohyun's breathing heavily, words and feelings flying out of his mouth, and he presses his face into Myungsoo's shoulder, feels the end of his hair tickle his cheek. "I've stolen your sight, your hearing, your speech. Myungsoo, you were dying, I used Elixir, it's going to happen!"
Myungsoo waits until Woohyun's breathing calms down again. "I don't care," he says. "If it was you on the floor and I was in your position, I would've done the same thing." Woohyun shifts so their gazes meet, and their lips meet briefly. "I don't care if I can't see or hear or talk. I just want to stay with you. That's enough." The determination and steeliness in his voice both comforts and frightens Woohyun, and he hasn't felt this lost in so long.
"I love you," he says again, kissing the back of Myungsoo's hand.
"I'm sick and just came back from the ledge of death with a complete essay about how I feel and that's your reply? I'm offended," Myungsoo teases. Woohyun only dives in for another kiss, lets Myungsoo win the battle tonight, smiling into the contact.
"Where are we going? I could call kidnapping charges, if you don't tell me this instant," Myungsoo hisses, as they pass the fourth stop from Seoul Station. Woohyun scoffs, pretends to have taken an offensive verbal blow. "Do I honestly look like the type of person who'd be attempting the kidnap of a full-grown adult in broad daylight?" Myungsoo shrugs, "We live in a dangerous world," he playfully remarks, dodging the empty soda can Woohyun tosses at him.
They get off at Dongdaemun five minutes later, Woohyun dragging Myungsoo along by the arm like an endearing child. "Where are we going?" he asks again, rather resignedly, but he knows it's really just a waste of time because Woohyun won't tell him until they get there. The doctor smiles (and he doesn't know Myungsoo finds it so maddeningly beautiful), and soon enough, a grin to match his breaks out on Myungsoo's face. "You'll see, it's just outside the train station!"
The Dongdaemun sunshine is bright but not burning, warm against their faces as they step out into the throng of people. It's packed with teenagers and young adults, giggling girls and lanky men. Woohyun steers Myungsoo to the right, and they find themselves before the humongous gates of an all-girls' high school.
"I know I told you I dropped out of school, but I believe I'm at college age now," Myungsoo sighs warily. "And is that a direct jab at my masculinity." Woohyun laughs, ignoring the pointed glare he's getting, tugging on the sleeves of Myungsoo's shirt and pulling him through the gates.
"It's a book fair, you derp! A friend of mine works here, and he tells me there are lots of new literature and science fiction novels going for really cheap here, maybe some older releases too?" he grins. "Anyway, I don't have appointments today and tomorrow, and even Sunggyu's on break, so I thought you'd like it if we could go out for a bit. You're always pent up in the hospital room and it's been a while and all…" he trails off.
Myungsoo doesn't stop a smile from gracing his face, hopes against hope that it'd be able to convey to Woohyun just how much he appreciates the gesture, pecks him quickly on the cheek. "Thank you," he says, smirking at the embarrassed shade of pink skimming across Woohyun's face. "If anyone saw that, you're a goner, you know!" Woohyun cries indignantly, but both of them know he doesn't mean it when he intertwines their fingers together between them.
They stop by every section in the gigantic school hall, even the kids' books, for no reason at all. Myungsoo thrusts a copy of 'The Holy Grail of Cakes and Cookies' in Woohyun's face, "Buy this and make some for me. Sunggyu-sshi says you can cook well, but I've never tasted any before," he says straightforwardly, and Woohyun swats his hand away (although his mind's already digging up old recipes for Myungsoo to try someday).
Woohyun flips through a Mediterranean cuisine cookbook, stealing glances at Myungsoo out of the corner of his eye, happily sifting through the science fiction section. It's been months since the Elixir shot, and Woohyun prays night and day that Myungsoo would be an exception, a miracle, prays that the dreaded effects would never come. He'd done his research, but even Professor Jang couldn't predict who would suffer the consequences and when. Dreams may become reality, if the wisher wishes hard enough, if the wisher has something he or she wishes to protect, he remembered reading before (in a fantasy manhwa, but still).
But time's begun to heal both their wounds; Woohyun hasn't seen Myungsoo this happy since the first few weeks they'd met, and he hasn't felt better himself. Smiling and talking (and teasing) seem to come more naturally for them both now, and Woohyun lives every single day in the present.
He feels a tap on his shoulder and turns around to a rather familiar gummy smile that he hasn't seen in a while. "Sungyeol-ah!" It's a pleasant surprise; he hadn't actually expected Sungyeol to be working on the day he decides to come with Myungsoo, and he hasn't seen him since his university days. After a round of catching up, Sungyeol asks, "So where's your boy? Howon told me about him and I want to see him; I want to see the guy who managed to squirm his way into Nam Woohyun's black heart!" he jokes.
Woohyun turns around to face the science fiction department, but Myungsoo's not there. "He probably wondered off somewhere. When I find him, I'll bring him to your station," he smiles, and Sungyeol nods, waving him off and turning to an elderly lady asking for help at the counter. He takes off, peering in between the tall shelves and displays, not missing a single inch of the hall. Sighing, Woohyun brings out his phone and dials his number. There's a ringing tone and someone picks up, but no sound gets through the receiver. "Myungsoo? Hello, Myungsoo? Where are you? I can't hear you, can you text me?"
No text comes, and no calls either, so Woohyun exits the hall into the compound, skimming the classrooms and groups of people for Myungsoo. His heart is racing; he knows he shouldn't be this worried, Myungsoo was a grown adult and could fend for himself (but still). He walks a little more, and he's tempted to use the school's PA system when someone spins him around by the wrist; Woohyun turns to face a frightened-looking Myungsoo.
"Oh my god, where did you go? I tried calling you and all and you didn't answer, I thought you'd been kidnapped or something!" Woohyun sighs, burying his face in Myungsoo's shoulder, passers-by be damned. He pulls away and Myungsoo's still as white as a sheet; he teasingly pokes Myungsoo's cheek. "Are you that scared you lost me for a bit? You're like a kid in a shopping mall!" Woohyun chuckles.
Myungsoo shakes his head frantically, fishes out their lunch receipt from earlier and a pen from his pocket. He flips it over and writes something, hands it to Woohyun.
I can't talk anymore. That's why I couldn't answer your calls.
Woohyun knows Myungsoo can still hear him, but he brushes up on his sign language with Sunggyu anyway. It hurt him to have to see Myungsoo signing alone, and he'd made up his mind that he'd learn along with him so he wouldn't feel left out. (He owes Myungsoo that much, he reckons, this was all his fault to begin with anyway.)
It's gotten much quieter in his office and in the hospital without Myungsoo's voice (or maybe it's really just him, because it's not like Myungsoo spoke all that much before anyway) and he misses it, misses it with all his heart. He never tells Myungsoo that though, partially because he doesn't want him to worry about how it was affecting them both, but also, he thinks, because he'd rather not face the fact that the decision to administer Elixir was his.
Myungsoo's taking it a lot better than he is, though; he doesn't mention the day he lost his voice, instead diligently polishes his sign language and carries around a tablet to write in for the phrases he's unsure of how to sign. Woohyun supposes he's adapting because he's a boy a few words to begin with, but Myungsoo's often managed to convey all he wants to say without signs, just a simple touch, a gaze.
Myungsoo moved out of the hospital two and a half weeks ago, officially certified as a consumer of Elixir. The woman at the registration desk had told him shipments of the syringe would be sent over once in three months. He'd moved in with Woohyun ever since and taken the guest room (and Woohyun doesn't tell anyone, but he'd always felt as if the room had been waiting for someone to occupy it).
Earlier this week, Myungsoo's asked Woohyun if they could attend the annual Japanese omatsuri, a yearly spring festival of sorts where a Japanese performing troupe would set up a funfair with performances and stalls galore. Woohyun willingly agrees; it's been far too long since he'd been to something like this, and it's not something they'd see everyday anyway.
It's a short walk to the empty ground the organizers rented for the event, ten minutes of refreshing spring air and excited families and some of the foreign troupe members hanging around the area. Look, Myungsoo signals, pointing to something up ahead, They even erected a shrine replica for tonight! The fairgrounds were decorated with paper lanterns, strings of fake sakura flowers, tiny suspended lights that look like floating rainbow-coloured orbs in the evening sky.
Woohyun turns to meet Myungsoo's thrilled gaze and he smiles at the way the lights reflect in the other's eyes, all seven colours swirling together in his pupils – Myungsoo looks breathtaking, too beautiful to be human just like everyone else, and Woohyun doesn't know what good he's done to deserve him.
They try everything at the festival, from the food to the clothes to the merchandise. Woohyun chomps contentedly on pre-packed sushi as Myungsoo tries his hand at rice-paper fishing (and fails miserably). Just after Myungsoo's fourth failed attempt, the girls begin squealing excitedly and clamouring for an open area between the packed stalls. Everyone stares up at the sky with anticipation written all over their faces; Woohyun quickly realizes there's a firework show planned.
Suddenly the lights explode in reds and golds and greens and purples, every colour imaginable, the entire sky illuminated by the stunning fireworks. Woohyun hasn't seen anything like this in a while; he never attended public events that would warrant stage work like this. "It's beautiful, isn't it?" he sighs, but Myungsoo doesn't answer. He takes it that Myungsoo's too absorbed in watching it to reply; he's always been like that at times.
Woohyun takes Myungsoo's fingers in his, smiles softly. "Thank you. For bringing me here, for loving me even after what I've done to you. It's really nice getting to see this with you," he finishes, then bursts out laughing at himself, "Oh god, I sound as cheesy as heck!"
Myungsoo doesn't reply, doesn't even smile (and it scares Woohyun, so very much). Their eyes widen together as realization knocks them off their feet with a single blow, triumphantly looming over them.
Woohyun reaches for the tablet Myungsoo's got his (trembling) fingers on.
You can't hear me?
Myungsoo erases Woohyun's message, writes one of his own.
Woohyun finds himself speaking less and less, and he's using sign language so often he accidentally uses it on Sunggyu more than once. Myungsoo learns how to lip-read so Woohyun wouldn't have to do it all the time, he'd said, but he insists on it anyway.
They spend any moment they can together now, and Woohyun always makes sure Myungsoo takes in his face as best he can; he refuses to make the same mistake as he's done the last two times. (Myungsoo'd written in his tablet one day, What if someday I forget how your voice sounds like? Woohyun doesn't know what his answer would be, instead reaches out wordlessly and presses his lips against Myungsoo's, hoping all the love he'd want him to have would pour out into the touch.)
It's a quiet Sunday evening, and it's one of those relaxing days Woohyun likes, when it's neither rainy nor sunny and just the right amount of sunlight streams into his condominium unit. Myungsoo's reading on the couch, keeping the pages of his book open with one hand while the other combs carelessly through Woohyun's hair. Woohyun's on his back, head in Myungsoo's lap and poking the teddy bear Myungsoo had bought for him for his birthday earlier in the year.
Woohyun mischievously slides in between Myungsoo's face and the book, leans dangerously close, kisses him once, twice, thrice. Myungsoo throws him a smile, signing, That was pretty close to the climax of the story; you'd better have a damn good reason why you interrupted at that time. Woohyun's always wondered how Myungsoo managed to joke or sound sarcastic through sign language; he hadn't thought that possible before.
Let's go to the bay again today. The sunsets have been really beautiful lately! Howon works at the cafe everyday and he tells me that too, so let's go? Woohyun signals back, eyes pleading for Myungsoo to agree and he does, pressing his lips against Woohyun's forehead. He shuts his book and shoves Woohyun off him, smiling ever so brightly at Woohyun's stupid (adorably stupid) mock-offended expressions that he's long since gotten used to.
The view by the bay is exceptionally beautiful today, even to Woohyun – an occasional bird glides across the sky, painted in pastel shades of orange and lavender and rosy pink. The sea is calm, pale blue tinged bright red from the warm skies. Woohyun notices an artist with his easel and paint not too far from them too, perched on a tiny stool and bringing to life the scene before him on the spread of white paper.
It gets more and more beautiful every time we come down here, doesn't it? Myungsoo signs. Woohyun nods, and they lean against the railing, taking everything in. He likes how moments with Myungsoo are always the most simplistic yet the most enjoyable, memories he'd keep forever (feelings he hopes Myungsoo will still be able to remember months down the road). These were the small delights in life, and although he knows those suffering from the after-effects of Elixir wouldn't completely lose their sense of sight – they'd go colour-blind and their vision would be largely impaired – he wants Myungsoo to be able to see clearly, to be able to fully appreciate its beauty because he's been looking at pretty pictures all his life.
I'm really glad I got to see this with you, Myungsoo stops for a moment for Woohyun to grasp the sentence, then continues, I love you, okay? You were the first person I ever opened up to about my past, and that was two days after we'd met. There was something about you... that drew me in. Myungsoo's grin is shy, but Woohyun thinks it's beautiful all the same.
I'm glad too, he signs, takes a step closer to Myungsoo and envelops him in a long kiss. You've given me and taught me so many things, I could never, ever repay you. I'll just love you forever then, I guess?
Myungsoo lets out a silent chuckle. Yes, you will. You're sentenced to that for the rest of your life.
Not that I mind, Woohyun dodges what looks like it would've been a painful punch, props his arms on the railing instead, head tilted, eyes fixated on the sky. It's so nice, isn't it? The colours and everything are so pretty; they blend so wonderfully.
Myungsoo nods, tilts his head upwards too to get a better look at the view. Yeah, it is. The area where the blue meets the green, especially, and the part where it's dotted with yellow. It's such a unique combination.
Woohyun stares at Myungsoo for a long moment, then pulls him in for a long hug, wraps his arms tight around his torso (as if they'd both disappear if he'd let go). "Yes," he whispers, although he knows the boy can't hear him. "Yeah, the blues and greens are gorgeous."
(What are you thinking about? Myungsoo signs, curling into Woohyun's arms.
How it was kind of my fault that you can't hear or speak or see right anymore, Woohyun replies, pecking Myungsoo's cheek, grateful that the boy's vision is still usable enough to read sign language.
Look, you need to stop thinking that, okay? I thought you told me you weren't thinking things like that anymore.
I will, I will. It just crossed my mind for a bit. Speaking of which, do you remember that book you were reading the first time I came to see you?
'Love is not written on paper, for paper can be erased. Nor is it etched on stone, for stone can be broken. But it is inscribed on a heart and there it shall remain forever,' Woohyun quotes, tilting Myungsoo's chin upwards with a hand and brushing their lips lightly together.
'I would rather have eyes that cannot see; ears that cannot hear; lips that cannot speak, than a heart that cannot love,' Myungsoo quote-signs, and Woohyun stops short.
You know I love you, right? I never find the right words to express them.
Myungsoo smiles, and Woohyun notices for the first time in a really long while that the twinkling sparkle in his eyes is back.
a/n: merry christmas, onew! i hope i didn't disappoint and that you enjoyed this fic; have a wonderful christmas and new year's ahead of you! :) ♥