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The Wind, the Sea, and the Stars

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As a child, Renjun meets the god of the wind.

Renjun is playing in the park, chasing a butterfly that manages to keep just within his reach and escape every time he gets too close. His tiny hands are diligently extended with the hopes of grabbing his little buddy flitting around in the air.

He giggles as the butterfly flies in a small loop and flutters toward the line of trees, and he spares a quick glance back at his mother who sits on a picnic blanket yards away. She’s busy talking to someone else, and Renjun doesn’t want to interrupt, so the small boy turns his back and follows the butterfly with wobbly steps.

The butterfly leads him past the treeline and into a large, spacious meadow covered in colorful flowers. Warm, gentle sunlight graces the meadow, and the light touches every blade of grass and petal, illuminating the life within.

The meadow is so stunning and bright that Renjun loses sight of the butterfly, and when he finally remembers his little winged friend, the butterfly is nowhere to be seen.

The child pouts, his narrow shoulders slumping as he realizes his loss. The breeze tosses his hair, and he pouts harder.

He’s on the brink of tears when a voice says, “Hi there, little one. What are you doing here?”

Little Renjun stumbles back, and a gentle hand steadies him.

He finds himself looking up at an older boy, not quite yet a man, and said older boy looks quite friendly. He has a kind face and dark eyes that seem keen and attentive. Renjun’s aware that he shouldn’t really interact with this stranger, but he feels impossibly safe despite being so far from his mother.

The older boy kneels down and extends his hand toward Renjun, and Renjun waddles a little closer, putting his small hand in the other’s large one.

“Aw, don’t cry, little one,” the older boy says pleasantly and wipes at Renjun’s chubby cheeks where his tears have slowly made their escape. Renjun manages a small sniffle, and the older boy lets out a chuckle.

“What’s your name?” he coos softly.

Renjun just blinks back at him with moist, large eyes, and the most the older boy gets is a little noise.

The older boy raises an amused eyebrow and says, “Well, you can call me Mark. Can you do that for me, little one?”

Renjun understands, but he shakes his head in answer.

Mark frowns. “What’s wrong? Can’t talk yet, little one?”

Renjun nods bashfully. He should know how to talk, but he’s found that he just can’t, for some reason.

Mark gives him a tender smile, and he draws Renjun in by his hand and murmurs, “I can fix that, little one. How would you like that?”

Renjun nods with wide eyes, and the older boy laughs adoringly.

“Here we go, little one. Close your eyes for me?”

Renjun squeezes his eyes shut, and Mark presses their foreheads together. Behind his eyelids, he sees a glow that seems to come from Mark, and he’s tempted to open his eyes but doesn’t want to disappoint the other, so he keeps his eyes closed.

He feels Mark pull away, and before he can make any noise of dissent, he feels this comfortable, body-encompassing warmth followed by a gentle boop on his nose.

“There we are. You can open your eyes for me, little one.”

Renjun opens his eyes, and he finds that the glow has spread all over the meadow with him and Mark at the center.

He tilts his head curiously, wondering if he’s supposed to feel different besides extremely at ease.

Mark chuckles and ruffles Renjun’s soft hair. “Let’s go back to your mom, okay? I think I can hear her calling your name—Renjun. Is that right, little one?”

Renjun nods, and as the older boy rises to his feet, Renjun listens for his mother’s call. He hears it, and his little heart sinks at the thought of his mother worrying because of him.

“It’s okay, little one. I’ll bring you right back,” Mark says kindly.

He extends his hand once he’s standing at his full height, and Renjun quickly slots his tiny hand into Mark’s.

Mark leads him toward part of the treeline surrounding the meadow, and before they pass through, Mark stops walking.

“Right through there,” Mark points through the trees, “Okay, little one?”

Renjun nods happily, and Mark leans down to kiss the top of the small boy’s head.

When Renjun stumbles through the trees and back to the picnic area, his mother exclaims with relief and rushes over.

“Baby, there you are! Oh, what’s on your head? Are these flowers?” Renjun’s mom laughs incredulously.

On Renjun’s head are tiny flowers that make the little boy look like the springtime in bloom. The flowers encompass every color visible to the eye, and Renjun’s mother decides to leave them in her son’s hair.

She scoops her little son into her arms, adjusting the boy’s clothing when a soft wind breezes by.

“M-mak-mak,” Renjun babbles, reaching for the air.

Renjun’s mother is so startled she nearly drops her child, but miraculously, Renjun stays balanced.

“Oh my god, Junnie! You spoke! Oh my god, baby, did you say Mama?” Renjun’s mother squeals excitedly. “Oh god, say it again—Mama. Say Mama, baby.”

Renjun stops grasping for the air and instead turns to his mother.

“Mama!” he giggles, and his mother is nearly in tears from happiness.

They go home soon afterwards, and over his mother’s shoulder, little Renjun waves, mumbling, “Mak-mak,” to his mother’s delight.

In the car, his mother leaves the windows rolled down, and the wind rocks Renjun to sleep.

 

As a teenager, Renjun meets the god of the sea.

Renjun spends his summers at the beach because his grandparents live in a house by the shoreline.

As an only child and introvert, Renjun is without companions in the small town that his grandparents reside in. He goes down to the beach to play by himself everyday, and everyday the sea presents him with a new curiosity to satisfy.

Today’s curiosity is to see how many unique seashells he can collect, so early in the morning Renjun sets off to complete his task on the empty beach.

With a small handful of shells in his bucket, Renjun’s already tired an hour in.

With his eyes closed, he lies on the sand near the waterline and lets the water lap at his feet. It’s not the afternoon yet, so Renjun doesn’t have to worry about getting sunburned.

“Hi there,” a voice says.

Renjun jerks up, opening his eyes to look up at a handsome stranger bathed in the morning light.

It’s a boy his age with a sculpted face and dark, tousled hair—as if he has just gotten back from surfing, although there have been no waves to surf yet. The boy is wearing appropriate beachwear, and he looks like he was born to walk on the sand and swim in the water.

“H-hi,” Renjun stutters back, sitting up and dusting off his back. He makes to get up, but the other boy gracefully plops down next to him.

Up close, Renjun can see his face clearer, and he finds that he can’t discern the color of the other’s eyes. They seem to shift to different shades of the ocean with every ray of light.

“I haven’t seen you here before,” the other boy says, eyeing Renjun as much as Renjun is eyeing him.

“Oh, uh, I only come here during the summer to visit my grandparents,” Renjun explains, self consciously tucking his hands under himself.

“I’m Renjun,” he adds on when the other boy stares at him expectantly.

The other’s face breaks out into a breathtaking smile, and he says, “You can call me Jeno! What have you got there?”

Jeno points at Renjun’s bucket, and Renjun blushes before tugging it over to show him.

When he sees the shells within, Jeno genuinely looks curious about them, and Renjun explains what he was doing. Jeno asks to join him, and they spend the rest of the day together, looking for shells upon the shoreline.

They meet again the next day and the day after that, and eventually they spend the rest of the summer together.

On one of the last days of the summer, Jeno asks Renjun if he can swim.

Renjun can’t, and when he tells Jeno, Jeno declares that he’ll be the one to teach Renjun how.

Renjun is reluctant, but not because he feels unsafe with Jeno. In fact, it’s quite the opposite—he’s only felt this safe once before, and he’s confident that Jeno would never let anything happen to him.

He’s afraid to make a fool of himself, but he soon learns that it’s not something he has to worry about.

Jeno is the sweetest, kindest, most patient teacher ever, and when Renjun gets tired, Jeno lets him wrap his arms around his neck as he swims in the sea. Renjun is filled with delight when Jeno pretends to be a dolphin, twirling them through the waves and cutting through the water with grace that Renjun finds inhuman.

When the day is ending, they find themselves at a large rock that serves as a miniature island not too far from the shore.

Renjun is leaning on the side of the rock, holding onto a small protrusion to keep himself afloat. Jeno is in front of him, crowding him against the surface as they giggle together.

When their laughter dies down, their eyes meet in the light of the sunset, and the only noises Renjun hears are the waves lapping against the rock and his own pounding heartbeat.

Jeno moves closer, pressing their foreheads together and wrapping an arm around Renjun’s waist. Instinctively, Renjun uses the hand not holding onto the rock to reach up and cup Jeno’s face, bringing them closer than before.

Jeno has the ocean in his eyes, and when he leans in to press their lips together, Renjun tastes the ocean as well.

They kiss against the rock, and Renjun eventually lets go of the protrusion to wrap his arms around Jeno’s neck.

Unbeknownst to him, Jeno isn’t holding onto anything either. Instead, they are being held in place by the waves that are willed to do so by the god holding Renjun in his arms.

They return the next day and the day after that, and they finish the summer with a promise to meet again in the next year—sealed with a kiss.

Renjun runs back into Jeno’s arms for the next few summers which are riddled with bliss and happiness, but good things cannot last forever.

The summer after Renjun graduates, he comes back to Jeno with news that he will be moving to another country for school and that he will most likely spend the rest of his life—or at least the next few years—there.

They break up, and Renjun’s heart is inevitably broken in the process. Renjun runs back to his grandparents’ home in tears, forgetting to close the door on his way in.

Jeno tries to follow, but inexplicably, the door is sealed shut by what can only be the wind.

As Renjun cries his heart out, the waves of the sea become turbulent, translating the heartbreak of a god into brash manifestations of power.

A tsunami warning is issued later that night, and Renjun’s grandparents refuse to let him leave to seek out Jeno.

The next morning, Renjun races down to the destruction-riddled beach, searching and searching for the boy he’s loved for years. The search is fruitless, and all Renjun has left are the memories over the years, the kisses against the rock not far from the shoreline, and the shells they collected together the day they met.

He never sees Jeno again, and he returns to his grandparents’ home with half of his heart drifting away like sea foam.

On his final night at his grandparents’ home, the breeze carries the smell of the sea spray out the window, and the sounds of the sea lull Renjun to sleep.

When Renjun says his goodbyes to his grandparents, he spares one for the boy he loved, and the wind ruffles his hair as he gets into his mom’s car.

 

As an adult, Renjun meets the god of the stars.

Every morning, after opening his studio, Renjun leisurely walks to the coffee shop nearby and comes back with a caramel macchiato that has sort of become an addiction for him.

When he returns to his studio today, there’s a tall stranger waiting for him in the middle of the gallery room.

“Hi there,” the man says, his voice deep and smooth.

“Hello,” Renjun replies, sipping his coffee as he walks to stand beside the well-dressed man admiring his work. The stranger is quite handsome, and his hair color matches the caramel in Renjun’s drink.

Renjun notes that the stranger’s gaze lingers on his two most beloved pieces: a painting of a flowery meadow and a painting of the sea.

Just as he’s about to recite the rehearsed history of the two and inform the other that these in particular are not for sale, the stranger turns to fully look at him, and Renjun is rendered breathless.

The stranger has eyes like Renjun has never seen before: there seem to be galaxies within his orbs, and they reflect light beyond what illuminates the studio.

“You must be Renjun. You can call me Jaemin,” the stranger says. He extends a hand, and Renjun instinctively reaches for it.

To his surprise, Jaemin presses a kiss to the back of his hand, and Renjun’s face goes red as the other maintains their eye contact. Jaemin chuckles and holds onto him for a moment too long, dazzling Renjun with his alluring smile.

When he gets his hand back, Renjun shyly asks, “How can I help you, Jaemin?”

The other man gestures to his paintings and says, “I’m a little interested in the art—“

A little? Renjun tilts his head.

“But I’m more interested in the artist,” Jaemin finishes smoothly with a smirk.

Oh.

In the next few hours, Renjun learns that Jaemin has a way with words, and he lets himself be charmed by the eloquent man.

When they say their goodbyes, Jaemin gives him a devilish wink and disappears into the night.

Alone in his dark studio, Renjun can’t take his eyes off of his painting of the sea, and memories of his teen years escape from where they’re locked away, seeping back into his mind.

He sighs and turns away.

He hasn’t been back to that town since the tsunami, and his grandparents had passed away years ago, so there’s really no chance of him going back.

The ache in his chest faded long ago, but thoughts of a boy by the sea linger in his mind at times.

As nighttime settles in, Renjun walks home with the wind ruffling his hair and the smell of the sea pervading his thoughts, unknowingly following a constellation above that evolves with every step he takes.

Jaemin returns the next day and the day after that, and Renjun finds himself slowly falling in love with the man with the cosmos in his eyes.

He’s no expert, but the feeling he gets from being with Jaemin is a sensation he knows intimately.

Renjun faces no indecision, and when Jaemin charms his way into Renjun’s heart, Renjun reciprocates his advances.

Jaemin takes him on a date, and the first leads to the next, and so on.

One night, Renjun finds himself standing on the roof of the building Jaemin apparently owns, wrapped up in Jaemin’s jacket with the breeze tossing his hair.

As he admires the night sky, Renjun feels Jaemin sneak up behind him and wrap an arm around his waist, pressing a kiss to his hair.

“I have a gift for you,” Jaemin whispers, and he turns Renjun around in his hold to present a small, plush box.

Renjun opens it with his encouragement, revealing a stunningly beautiful pair of diamond studded cuffs that glint like bands of stars.

With his eyes, Jaemin asks a silent question, and Renjun responds with his actions. He pulls his lover closer, and after slipping the bracelets onto one another, they press their foreheads together, swaying with the wind, arms and bodies intertwined.

Renjun laughs softly when Jaemin nuzzles their noses together, and Jaemin kisses him under the stars—immortalizing their promise with the galaxy as their witness.

Overhead, a group of shooting stars streak across the sky, illuminating the world in the celebration of a god.

Renjun spends the rest of his life with Jaemin at his side, navigating the currents and constellations that fate has planned out for him.

Wherever Renjun goes, the stars shine brighter for him.

 

On Renjun’s last day, Jaemin takes Renjun to the sea, knowing that his beloved has missed it dearly.

As Jaemin leads Renjun to the shoreline, the wind blows a strong gust and the sea rumbles in greeting.

Feeling the breeze and sea spray on his skin makes Renjun laugh fondly, and he gingerly makes his way across the sand with his hand in Jaemin’s.

He steps into the shallow water that laps against the beach, and he feels a familiar warmth as the sea lingers around his ankles and the winds preserve him from their gales.

They spend the day at the beach together, Renjun never straying too far from the water.

Throughout the day, Jaemin playfully splashes him a couple times, but Renjun notices that his lover’s eyes seem to linger—as if he were trying to memorize every moment of the day.

When the sun begins to set, Renjun doesn’t want to leave, and he feels like there is something that wants him to stay as well.

Jaemin gently tugs him along, but not before Renjun glimpses a figure in the sea that he thinks he recognizes.

He gasps and pulls on Jaemin’s hand, “Wait—I—”

Whatever he had seen disappears after he blinks, and his lover has a look on his face that says he understands—but how could he?

“Nevermind,” Renjun says sadly, eyes tracing the horizon.

His shoulders slump until he notices something in the sand.

“Oh!”

The sea has washed up a shell at their feet, so ethereally beautiful that Renjun has to wonder how it came to be.

With a quiet chuckle, Jaemin picks it up for him, and Renjun takes the ocean’s gift with a tender smile, cradling it with care.

“Can we come back tomorrow?” he asks hopefully.

Jaemin squeezes his hand tightly, and his glistening eyes look pained when he responds, “Of course, love.”

Renjun wants to ask, but something in his lover’s expression tells him he’ll know soon.

Before they depart, Renjun turns and waves at the open ocean without knowing why—it just feels right. Jaemin cracks a smile and does so too, and for brief second the area where the sea meets the air seems to wave back.

Jaemin presses a kiss to Renjun’s hair, and they leave hand in hand as night falls, the diamonds in their bracelets twinkling in the light of the sunset.

Overhead, an emerging constellation traces their path back.

 

That night, Renjun falls asleep under the stars with the gentle guidance of the wind and sea.

As his consciousness fades for the last time, the wind carries his soul to the sky.

The sea rages in tribute, and the stars up above celebrate their new member.