(my love) is higher than the sky
Jackson’s phone was staring, accusing, right at him. The message on LINE was small and unassuming, Youngjae’s ID on top of it: I think I’m getting sick.
Sick how?, Jackson answered, his fingers typing wrong because he never really went aboard all the tech wave. Meaning, he sucked at texting. Like a cold?
The flu, maybe.
Want me to come over?
Uh. Youngjae’s words coube be really reticent for something floating on a fencing background. It had to be a talent. Someone had to have it looked at. I don’t want you to end up sick too.
Jackson sighed, thinking to himself how silly Youngjae could be sometimes. Like Jackson would end up with something so mundane like seasonal flu. He put on his windbreaker, and then his coat, and then a scarf, got his keys that were dutifully sitting on their place on the bow beside the door and then — finally — left, leaving behind his vibrating phone.
Jackson knocked on Youngjae’s door using the secret tune they decided once when they got really, really drunk. Youngjae never remembered it because it was like elaborated, but Jackson liked to think he’d a better memory. And that Youngjae did know the code, but was straight-face lying because he was an asshole, sporadically.
“Please don’t tell me it’s you”, came the voice from inside the apartment, but no movement indicating that the door was being open. Jackson sighed.
“Youngjae, let me in! You said you were sick!”
“I didn’t mean you had to come here. Can’t people tell you something about their day without you having to bust through their front door?”
“I can say with absolute certainty that I did not try to bust through your front door”, Jackson answered him, patronizing. “Evidence A: your intact said front door. And, with it, I think I can rest my case.”
“Is it too rude refusing to open the door?” Youngjae asked himself, absent. Jackson knocked fiercely in protest.
“You can’t send me home! I’m already here!”
“I didn’t call you—”
“Do you really want to have this conversation with me on the corridor? Like, really? I can start yelling any minute now.”
“Well, I guess I will have to prove you wrong—”
“Fine!” Youngjae said angrily, the lock turning. “Please don’t yell. I got a complaint from the neighbour yesterday. She is an elderly woman who is also very terrifying.”
Jackson smiled at him, brightly, ignoring everything Youngjae had just said. “Look at what the cat dragged in.”
“That would be you.”
“You’re looking like hell warmed over.” Jackson sounded delighted. Youngjae punched him, hard, on the shoulder, with no mercy whatsoever.
“That’s exactly why I didn’t want you to come here.”
“I’m your boyfriend!” Jackson told him, taking off his coat and hanging it on the wood hook that Youngjae kept — with style , apparently — close to the door.
“You suck at being my boyfriend”, Youngjae told him, matter-of-factly.
“Should I kiss you?” Jackson wondered out loud. “Is this the proper thing to do?”
“When someone you love dearly is sick—”
“You do not kiss them, no.”
Jackson sighed, sadly. “Are you sure about that?”
“I don’t want you to kiss me. I’m sick. ”
“What about all these vocal emphasis? I can understand the message without you stressing the important parts.” he told Youngjae, full of righteous indignation.
“Not always, darling.” was his resigned answer. “Not always.”
Jackson looked around the living room, that was full of tissues and large books and rom com paused on Netflix. The den of a sick-with-the-flu introvert man, Jackson told to himself. His boyfriend. It had been five weeks already, but the novelty of it hadn’t weared off.
“How are you feeling? I called my mom—”
“I can bet money on you not calling your mother.”
“Fine, whatever, I read on the internet that chicken soup is a must.”
“I’m korean. You’re chinese. What do you want with chicken soup.”
“It was on the internet!”
“The english side of it, probably!”
“You complain about everything—”
“I’m sick. It’s like, my prerogative.”
“Did you read that on the internet?”
Youngjae paused for a second, maybe three. “No.”
“Oh my God”, Jackson laughed. “you suck so much.”
Jackson looked up from his congee, prepared like his mother used to do when he was a toddler. He didn’t want to do that to Youngjae because he honestly thought it tasted like feet, but he’d run out of options so in the panic less is always more. Also, apparently Youngjae was feeling difficult and refusing American traditions. Is this his default when he was sick?, Jackson wondered to himself. It was kind of cute.
“This is nice”, Youngjae said after a while.
“Like the image with everything burning and the dog maniacally contemplating his life choices?”
“No! Jesus Christ. ” Youngjae ate furiously a couple of spoonfuls. “Like a normal, casual ‘nice’.”
“You’re really moody when you’re not feeling great.” Jackson told him, diplomatically.
“Me? You have some nerve.”
“Did you like the food?”
Jackson sighed. “You can say that it tastes terribly. I told you it would taste terribly.”
“It is traditional sick-people chinese food! I wanted to try it.”
Jackson leaned his face against his right hand, looking at Youngjae and, in all honesty, trying to decide if he would look good with Marilyn Monroe’s beauty mark. Youngjae glared at him, as if he knew exactly what Jackson was thinking and was not liking it.
“You didn’t have to come here.” Youngjae said very softly, maybe hoping that Jackson wouldn’t hear him.
“I wanted to.”
“Is this another I never really had a serious relationship so everything is great and nothing hurts moments? Because they are cute and all but on this case I don’t think they really are the best bargain you could have made with fate.”
“No.” Jackson smiled at him, pretty and kind. “This is one I love you and want you to feel better moments.”
“Oh.” Youngjae said softly to his congee. “It is perfect, uh. Very good. Marvelous. I, uh. Love you too.”
Jackson nodded at him, brightly, as if Youngjae’s fumbling declaration was notorious and perfect. Youngjae wanted to keep him close to his heart, safe and warm, forever, where nobody could hurt him and everything would always be nice.
“Do you want more congee?” Jackson asked him, kindly. Youngjae tried his best to hide his grimace.
“It would be great.”
Jackson grinned, so happy and— amazing — that Youngjae thought to himself, almost startled, I would eat five others bowls of tasteless rice soup for this smile. Five others more, for this man.
(and that, only then, was when he knew it was true love)