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be as gentle as i can

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taeyeon's last cohesive thought was red.

she's vaguely aware of the fact that both her shirt and black slacks are unbuttoned, and of the cool, clear gel being gently pressed into the skin of her stomach, but there's a very distinct gap of time missing from her memory from the searing pain in her abdomen and seeing blood in the lace of her underwear to -- now, laid down on a rickety plastic bed, the blue pleather sticking to her skin uncomfortably with the summer heat. 

so, red, and lots of it, then the hospital, straight there from the toilet cubicle at work. her phone is still tucked into a pocket in her bag, the email she'd drawn up for HR left unfinished. work has no idea; neither does jeongguk.

the doctor - doctor lee - turns briefly away from the screen she's frowning intensely at to flash a pitying smile, tight-lipped and sad-eyed. taeyeon has no idea.

or, at least, no conscious idea. the six weeks whispers on repeat in the back of her mind, but work has been busy, and she's been on holiday, and she's trying out this new diet. she's had no time or right of mind to do anything but unconsciously ignore it. and now she's here, half naked in a too-warm hospital room, too scared of the unknown to look at the screen to her left. 

she gets another sharp pain then, to the left of where the probe is currently inspecting, and doctor lee scans the screen furiously for any changes while she rolls the probe around the source of taeyeon's sharp hiss.

every second is hazed over in a way she's never felt before - she can't remember the elevator ride up to the EPU wing, or the drive over from her office. can't remember the name or face of the man who'd inspected her originally, but his cool fingers against the knobs of her spine had grounded her enough to think coherently, and that thought had been of jeongguk, the wedding band on her ring finger that fits like a dream, their cozy two-bed apartment and their kitten. she thinks her cheeks are still wet with shock, but she can't be sure.

doctor lee helps her sit up, then tells taeyeon she can make herself decent while she runs the results by a colleague, and the next thing taeyeon knows, she's sat in another plastic chair in another hospital room, and her only thought is of jeongguk.

he would've made such a good father.

 

×

 

it feels less like a bad dream the closer she gets to work. autonomy is slowly returned to her, autopilot discarded just so she can think. their words play on loop - it's normal for the first pregnancy, the bleeding should stop within the next ten days, take that time to rest and get someone to take care of you. stopped at a green light, the car behind her honks loudly, and the sound rings in her ears until she returns to the safe solitude of her office, where everything boils down to a stark silence.

she slumps against the door, ignoring the knocks from her workmates on the other side. the wood is cool against her flushed skin, and she keeps a spare pair of underwear and a scented baggie in her bottom drawer for period emergencies, anyway. she can be okay. 

but the tackiness of the gel sticks to her skin, and never before in her life has taeyeon been petrified of the colour white. it feels like her mind has just cleared after one big adrenaline-fuelled panic attack, and all the dread that fills her nearly knocks the breath out of her.

she'd had no idea. but more than that, she hadn't wanted to have any idea; she had consciously piled on distraction after distraction until she'd ended up killing a part of her, at least - it had been a part of her, yes, and she'd let it die. she had been clueless and reckless and distracted, unthinking. but all the signs were there and she'd blanked them, the late period and the cravings, the sudden rush of hormones, the irritating brown discharge. or maybe they're all normal womanly things and hindsight is a bitch, maybe biology is to blame and that sneaky percentage of first-time miscarriages has fallen short at the beck of taeyeon's womanhood. whatever it is, there's a burning itch inside that won't ever be scratched, the pit of her stomach empty in ways she never knew possible. the phantom pain lies like a stone at the bottom of a murky lake. 

jeongguk knocks at her door then, and she knows it's him by the rhythm of his knocking. swift and hurried, like he'd knock the door down if there wasn't a possibility of taeyeon standing or sitting in its falling path. a wave of it hits her full force then, and she can't look him in the eyes when she stands to open the door.

he's breathing hard, though, and he's quick to reach out and pull taeyeon into his arms, the heavy door falling shut behind him. 

"hey, baby, what's wrong?" his voice is pinched, and taeyeon doesn't wrap her arms around his waist, but she does tuck her head into his chest, just this once glad for their height difference. "jimin rang me and told me you just took off, then you didn't answer your phone, and i've been everywhere. are you okay, sweetheart?"

taeyeon nods, but she has to hold her breath to keep the tears at bay. she doesn't know what to say, how to tell him, how to do anything but melt into his body and tremble in his arms. he knows there's something wrong, but how could she tell him? how could she even begin to explain?

"i'm okay," she whispers, tongue numb and fumbling in her dry mouth, and jeongguk believes it less than she does. he doesn't call her out on it, though; just pulls her closer and kisses her hair.

he stands like a loyal guard dog outside the cubicle while she changes, nodding in greeting to the women from taeyeon's department that he recognises. they manage to escape jimin's frantic mothering while they leave, and taeyeon cites 'family emergency' for her early leave and previous disappearance. jeongguk keeps a hand at the small of her back or his hand wrapped around one of hers the entire journey down, and he lets her be silent.

they stop outside their favourite thai restaurant and jeongguk nips inside to grab takeout. taeyeon kisses his cheek and smiles weakly in thanks. 

she knows he expects more when they get home. she knows he expects to talk and listen and maybe cry and definitely eat junk food while they watch dumb action films, but she doesn't know that she can give that to him, or herself, for that matter. not tonight. because this is...

they'd had the conversation months ago. three years married, five years spent crazy over each other before that. taeyeon has been taking the pill for ten years now, and they'd only ever had sex without a condom a handful of times before the wedding, all while drunk and stupid. but they hadn't used any on their mostly-sober honeymoon, and neither of them had dared to mention it until what feels like days ago, but is more like half a year ago, now. ironically, it had been taeyeon, in the middle of a particularly mouthy session - i want to feel you come in me. she'd ran with it at jeongguk's enthusiastic reaction, told him how crazy it drives her to feel it inside afterwards, like her own wetness has dribbled down her thighs again. and then they really talked about it, agreed to use up the rest of the condoms in the box but not bother with buying more after that. but she had still been on the pill - she still is on the pill. oh, god, what if that's--

they pull up into the parking lot of their apartment complex, and taeyeon is knocked out of her own head. the panic bubbling up her throat dies down, and she shakes her head and undoes her seatbelt, grabs the takeout while jeongguk lugs the huge bag of cat litter out of the boot. 

they'd had the talk. the what ifs had been discussed, the maybe had been put on the table, the condoms had been tossed to the side.

the cat is sat by the door when they walk in, and she meows for attention as soon as they walk through the door. jeongguk drops the bag by the shoe rack and kneels to scratch at her soft grey coat. taeyeon slips out of her heels and hangs her bag up, hangs her keys up on the hook by the door and steps into the kitchen to turn the oven on, sets the food down on the counter next to the stove so they don't forget about it. for now, the blood at the top of her thighs and the tacky gel stuck to her skin is too much to stomach.

she has the water as hot as she can bear it, and for the first few minutes, she routinely washes her body of all the filth, even though it stubbornly sticks to her. the abdominal pain is in the background now, but the hot water soothes what's left of it. the thought that their child could have been conceived up against these very walls sends a violent shudder of nausea through her. mostly, she feels void.

distantly, she hears the bathroom door opening and closing, the soft, muted sound of jeongguk's clothes hitting the floor, the flick of the switch as he turns on the heated towel rail. he must've fed the cat and put the food in the oven on low to keep it hot. her eyes slip shut as his arms wrap around her from behind, and then she breaks.

she had been gone from her own mind and body since all that red on white lace, in the car and in the hospital and at work, but now everything that she's supposed to have felt up until this very moment piles on top of her, now that she knows that she's safe in her husband's arms. jeongguk holds her as she sobs, turning around so that their fronts are pressed together, his warms hands stroking up and down her back, her sides, cupping her nape and tucking her in. maybe he does know - maybe he's used his godlike Omniscience of All Things Taeyeon, or maybe he's just her soulmate. maybe he just needs to hold her as much as she needs to be held.

the water runs cold sooner than she'd like. the throwaway idea of telling jeongguk here is lost to the drain, and she shouldn't still be able to feel the blood and the gel on her, but there's a phantom stickiness to her skin now. even as jeongguk runs a soft, warm towel over her clean skin, it stays. she wonders if it'll ever leave. 

they don't bother with clothes apart from underwear, and jeongguk doesn't miss the pad that taeyeon sticks to the inside of hers, or the blood on the white lace thrown into the bin. instead, he pads out to the kitchen and sets up their food while taeyeon slips under the comforter, brings it through on a tray because he knows neither of them will be getting back out of bed tonight. the ac kicks to life as he plates up, and he can hear the ruffle of sheets as taeyeon undoubtedly pulls the comforter up higher, so he turns it off, even though the heat of the late summer afternoon is stifling. 

they eat in silence, but they sit opposite each other on the bed. there's a brief interlude in her sadness in which she feels that it will be okay, that her pain is tumultuous now but will soothe in time, and she puts her plastic container of noodles down and crawls out of bed and into jeongguk's lap, his own food forgotten the second he sees her make her way to him. taeyeon wraps her arms around him, tucks her face into his neck and breathes in his faded cologne and the warmth of his skin. he traces patterns into her warm skin, feels over her bare back and kisses along her shoulder. she needs his silence, and he gives it to her so readily - 'whenever you're ready' is the only thing he whispers into the hair behind her ear, and she digs her nails into his shoulder blades. 

she takes a deep breath and leans back. jeongguk meets her gaze, worried and bloodshot, and she can't take another second of it. 

"i'm sorry."

jeongguk's brow furrows as she looks him in the eye and whispers, barely audible. his gaze follows their hands as she takes his and slowly moves it to her lower abdomen, and when he stops breathing and tenses up, she finally gives in to the building pressure behind her eyes, the hot flush on the back of her neck and the lump in her throat.

"you..." taeyeon hangs her head to watch jeongguk's unmoving hand on her stomach, sucks her bottom lip into her mouth, chews on it while she tries to figure out what she could possibly say to make this any less painful for him than it already will be. "you would have made such a good father."

it's only later, when jeongguk has taeyeon laying on top of him sound asleep, that he can speak more than 'i'm sorry' past the lump in his throat. "you'll be such a good mother," he whispers into her hair, and follows her into slumber.