There’s a place outside the village where flowers grow unencumbered, and spring knows no end: a field of bright yellows, vibrant pinks, soft violets, flower heads swinging lazily in the breeze, untouched by human hand.
“Fairies live there,” say the old grandmas of the village, knowing smiles on their withered faces. “If you are very lucky, and your heart is true, one day you might even see them, they look like bright specks of light playing in the morning dew.”
Chanyeol has never seen any speck of light walking by the path that runs along the field despite always looking very carefully, his heart full of never-ebbing, childlike enthusiasm.
Instead, what he sees one day is a boy his age sitting down amongst the flowers, his hands busy weaving a crown out of the most beautiful ones.
“What are you doing?!” yells Chanyeol, heart in his throat.
Startled, the boy raises his head, wide brown eyes taking in Chanyeol’s upset expression.
“Don’t you know that those flowers belong to the fairies? Get out of there before you get in trouble!”
A confused expression on his face, the boy tilts his head to the side, studying Chanyeol’s form as if he had never encountered another human being in his life. “You can see me?” he asks, his voice as sweet and deep as honey.
Now it’s Chanyeol’s turn to be confused. Who is this boy? He has never seen him before in the village, and he knows everyone, those who stayed and those who went away, he has never forgotten a face in his life. But this boy… this boy as beautiful as the Sun, as beautiful as the princes of the stories his mom told him when he was young… this boy he doesn’t know.
“Of course I can see you, you’re right in front of me!” Eyes darting back and forth between the boy’s hands, his eyes and his lips, Chanyeol gets more and more flustered the longer he stares at him - and the boy stares back.
“You can’t pick those flowers, they’re not yours. They’re not anyone’s, really… please, they’re so beautiful right where they are, there is no need to hurt them…” he says, a sad look in his eyes. Those pretty flowers, now all torn apart! The boy must surely be a foreigner, there is no way anyone from their village would ever dare do something as ugly as this.
Now the strange boy is smiling; his eyes are bright, his cheeks flushed, his skin glistens under the midday sun. He stands up, and he’s tall, almost as tall as Chanyeol, but, somehow, he seems larger than life.
“You’re one of life’s special ones, aren’t you, Chanyeol?”
He’s getting closer, gliding through the flowers and the tall grass like a fish through water.
He stops right in front of Chanyeol, and up close his smile is even more beautiful than Chanyeol had imagined. The prettiest smile he has ever seen.
“Do– do we know each other? How do you know my name?” he asks, now even more confused. His heart is telling him something, something impossible about this boy, there is no way he’s what Chanyeol is starting to think he is.
“You don’t know me, Chanyeol, but I do know you,” he says, placing his hand right where Chanyeol’s heart is trying to beat right out of his chest.
“I’ve seen you walking by this field ever since you were old enough to walk. But you have never seen me before.” His smile is a sad one now, his eyes lost in the fog of memories.
“No one has ever seen me before.” He brings a hand up to Chanyeol’s cheek, the boy frozen in wonderment.
“Tomorrow you’ll remember this encounter as a beautiful, vivid dream, Chanyeol, this is how things work in my world. But please, if you can, don’t ever forget dreaming about me.”
He closes his eyes and places a light kiss on Chanyeol’s lips, their touch feeling like the first day of spring after a long, snowy winter.
There is a boy living alone in a little house on the outskirts of their village, right where the path to the forbidden field runs.
The people of the village wonder about him, about why he chose to live there, a boy so young, so joyful and full of life. Doesn’t he feel alone there? Doesn’t he wish to marry?
Little do they know, the boy has never been happier. He doesn’t feel alone, for every morning a new flower appears on his table, always fresh and sweet-scented.
Today it’s a yellow rose, beautiful, full in bloom, as vibrant as the smile haunting his dreams every night.
Chanyeol doesn’t feel alone, as long as he can look over the flower field from his window, as long as, sometimes, if he is lucky enough, can catch sight of bright specks of light playing in the morning dew amongst the blossoms.
"Where did you even get that?" asks Jongin, laughing at his boyfriend's antics. They're sitting on Chanyeol's bed, relaxing after a long day. There's jazz music coming from the computer's speakers, a bowl of chips between them, and an old, cheap analog camera in Chanyeol's hands.
"Remember when I went home last weekend? I was looking for some batteries and found this instead," answers Chanyeol, fiddling with the camera settings. "Isn't it cool?"
He has a big, dumb smile on his face, eyes fixed on his new toy. He brings it closer to his face, aiming the lens in Jongin's direction.
"What are you doing?"
"Trying to capture the moment," Chanyeol answers, trying to get the camera to focus on Jongin. Maybe the light in the room isn't ideal, too dim, the shadows too long, but Chanyeol doesn't want to get up to turn on the overhead lights. And maybe he also prefers Jongin like this, all soft smiles and soft edges, the lack of harsh lights giving them the illusion of intimacy in an overcrowded dorm.
He's ready to take the first picture, his finger on the button, one eye gazing at Jongin through the viewfinder, the other closed tightly, when he sees him fiddling with the hem of his shirt in a nervous gesture, before bringing one hand up on the lens of his camera, blocking the view.
"Hey!" Chanyeol says, gazing at his boyfriend over the camera. "I was trying to take a picture."
Jongin has an embarrassed smile on his face, his cheeks red, his hands back at ruining his shirt. "Sorry, it's just... I got a bit shy."
Chanyeol tilts his head to one side. "But you're never this shy when I use my phone." His camera roll is full of pictures of Jongin's that can attest to his statement.
If possible, Jongin is now blushing even harder. Looking down at his hands, he mumbles something, his voice too low to be clearly heard by Chanyeol.
"You know I can't hear you if you murmur like that," Chanyeol tells him, getting closer. He takes Jongin's hands in his own, kissing the palms, enjoying the sight of Jongin getting even more flustered by his actions.
Smirking, he moves to kiss him on the mouth, but Jongin moves his head just in time for his lips to hit his cheek instead.
"Don't make fun of me, Chanyeol," he pouts.
"I wasn't." He noses Jongin's cheek, then he moves to his neck, pressing a line of kisses over his heated skin. He hears Jongin's sighing, finally losing some of the tension he had accumulated.
There you go, he thinks, smiling against his boyfriend's shoulder. Raising his head to face him, he asks: "Ready to tell me what got you so worried?"
"I know it's stupid, but... I don't know, taking pictures with that camera..." he trails off, frowning, and looking at the old piece of technology as if it had personally wronged him. "It feels more permanent somehow, you know?"
Chanyeol kisses his nose. "I like that word. Permanent. It's my favourite. It's a very nice, very good, perfect word," he tells him, accompanying every word with a kiss.
Now they're giggling like kids, Jongin whining about his cheesiness, Chanyeol not caring one bit because, damn it all, his boyfriend is cute, and special, and wonderful, and he deserves to be covered in kisses every day of the week.
After they have catched their breaths, Chanyeol begs Jongin for a picture, hoping in his heart that the real question he's trying to ask will be clear.
And Jongin smiles, a beautiful, lovely smile, full of love and acceptance, and says yes.
Chapter 3: Cherry Blossoms
What an horrible, horrible day that was for Jongin.
That morning he had woken up later than usual, his alarm clock having misteriously decided to ring half an hour after its set time.
Waking up so late had meant a rushed breakfast - a couple of slices of burnt toast and a quickly chugged glass of orange juice -, and an even more rushed shower, before Jongin had literally launched himself out of his small apartment (a cubicle, really, good enough only to sleep in it. Not that Jongin needed anything else, his social life being practically non-existent) to try and catch the train that would take him to work.
He had made it, barely, the doors almost closing on him while the other occupants of the wagon kept looking down at their phones, uncaring of his predicament.
Breathing hard, he could feel sweat trailing down his spine and sticking his white shirt to his skin. Grimacing, he reached out his right hand towards the nearest pole, his suit jacket draped over his left arm, mentally preparing himself for another long day at work.
Jongin had moved to Japan six months ago. Leaving Korea hadn't been easy; moving away from his family and his friends had costed him a lot, but, at that time, he had been convinced that, in the end, his decision would have payed off.
His transfer had been proposed to him by the Korean branch of his company, his boss listing all the advantages that Japan would have reserved him: higher pay, a promotion, more challenges.
Jongin had thought long and hard before finally taking the chance that had been offered to him. And now here he was, six months into his stay in Japan, being scolded by his boss for his lateness. It was the second time that week.
Apologizing profusely in his broken Japanese, he proceeded to move into his office, the telltale signs of an incoming headache throbbing wildly against his temples.
The truth was, Jongin didn't love his job. He liked it enough, he supposed, but an office job hadn't been what he had dreamed for himself when he was a kid. But then he had grown up, and life had a way of leading you down paths you might have never expected.
Now, at twenty-six, he had a stable job, a miniscule apartment, and a desperate nostalgia of home. He missed his family, his friends, the old lady down the street that always offered him homemade food.
He missed being able to speak to people without struggling to find the right words, without having to think beforehand about what he wanted to say, rehearsing everything in his mind a thousand times before he felt ready to speak it into the world.
He felt so tired. Worn out. Lonely. Six months in Japan and not a single achievement to show for it. What good was a promotion if he had no one to celebrate it with? If he had no one to spend money on?
At the end of that interminable day, he decided to take the long way home; closing himself up in his apartment to wallow in his misery until the next morning without firstly taking his mind off things sounded, at that moment, like a death sentence.
There was a park near his office and he decided to walk there, to sit for a while under the trees, the weather now warm enough to allow it. He had a book in his bag - an old habit he had developed during his teenage years - that he read on the train when he was lucky enough to find an empty seat. Reading it while breathing in some fresh air would be nice.
Deep in his thoughts, he didn't notice right away that he had reached his destination. The laughter of small children reminded him of where he was, and, when he looked up to take in his surroundings, he gasped out loud at the unexpected beauty before of him.
"It's the cherry blossom season," he whispered, eyes taking in the pink flowers gathered on the branches. They looked like clouds at sunset.
"How could I forget?"
He wandered for a while on the paths lined with cherry trees, book momentarily forgotten in his bag, mind at peace, a serene smile adorning his face. When he sat down under the shadow of a tree, he felt better than he had in ages. He took out his book - a well-loved novel he had brought with him from Korea - and started reading.
"That's a really good book," a voice said, startling Jongin. Looking up from the pages of his book, he found a guy his age standing in front of him, a sheepish smile on his face and a somewhat mischievous light in his pretty eyes.
Blinking a few times - for his mind was still stuck in the book -, Jongin automatically replied: "Yeah, this is my third time reading it."
Apparently encouraged by his answer, the man sat down to Jongin's right and smiled, introducing himself as Chanyeol. It was at that moment that Jongin finally realized they had been talking in Korean the whole time.
"Are you Korean?" he asked, dumbfounded.
"Yeah. I saw this cute guy sitting under a tree and when I looked closer I realized that the book he was reading was in Korean. I've moved here just last week and I thought, hey, this might be a good chance to find some new friends!"
He had spoken so loudly and so quickly that Jongin felt a bit dazed.
"What's your name?"
"Jongin..." Had this guy just called him cute?
"Nice to meet you, Jongin!"
His smile was so big and so nice it was impossible not to fall for it.
They spent a couple of hours like that, sitting under a cherry tree, talking about the book Jongin was reading, about Japan, about their families back in Korea.
Chanyeol had a sister he missed already, and Jongin's heart ached thinking about his own sisters and his little nephew and niece.
When the sky was set aflame by the sunset, they stood up and walked together towards the exit, revelling in the beauty of the cherry blossoms falling lazily on the ground.
Suddenly, Chanyeol stopped him with a hand on his arm, and, with the other, he picked something out of Jongin's hair and showed it to him: a petal.
"They say catching a cherry petal when it falls is a sign of great fortune," he said, looking at Jongin.
"I think you're supposed to actually catch it, Chanyeol," Jongin laughed. "Not to fish it out of someone's hair."
Chanyeol shrugged. "I don't know. I think I was really lucky meeting you today."
His eyes were incredibly beautiful, Jongin could feel himself getting lost in them. He blushed at Chanyeol's words, speechless.
"Fancy getting a drink?"
That day had started so horribly, the last in a long series of horrible days, but it seemed like the universe had finally decided to turn things around for Jongin. Who would have thought that he would meet someone like Chanyeol, someone with whom he had clicked so well without even trying? Maybe moving to Japan hadn't been such a bad idea, after all.
"I'd love to," Jongin told him, enjoying the sight of Chanyeol's smile getting bigger and bigger. Feeling brave, and a bit reckless, he took Chanyeol's hand in his own and walked with him under a cherry blossoms snowfall.