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"Zhou Mi...what are you doing?"

He's really too tall to fold up properly; his crouch results in jutting knees and lanky extended arms, a paper cup in one hand and a mechanical pencil in the other. He doesn't even have a raincoat. Kyuhyun walks over to shade him with his umbrella.

Zhou Mi flashes him a distracted smile and turns back to the sidewalk. "Saving earthworms," he replies.

If Kyuhyun squints, he can see a faint narrow glimmer creeping across the pavement. Zhou Mi moves his paper cup to intercept it, and the line stops short.

"I thought you hated bugs."

"Earthworms are different," Zhou Mi says. "They aerate the soil and help flowers grow." He uses the pencil to gently encourage the earthworm to crawl inside. Kyuhyun stares at him. "Stop looking at me like that," he says without looking up.

With one worm successfully captured, Zhou Mi lifts the cup and duck-walks towards another one. Kyuhyun and his umbrella follow. "My mother's a gardener," Zhou Mi adds quietly after a moment of silence.

Kyuhyun crouches beside Zhou Mi, watching. This second worm is more stubborn; it keeps turning away, and Zhou Mi has to move the cup a few times until it begins to slink inside.

"Was that your morning tea?" Kyuhyun asks.

"Mm-hmm."

"Did you at least finish it first?"

Zhou Mi gives him a look. "Saving lives is more important than tea, Kyuhyun."

"So what if they get stepped on? Don't they just grow back if they get cut in half?"

"You can't 'grow back' from being crushed." Zhou Mi starts for a third.

Kyuhyun sighs. He turns and opens his bag, digs for worm-saving supplies, and comes up with an empty plastic folder and a pen. "Here," he says, tucking his umbrella into the crook of Zhou Mi's neck. Zhou Mi cocks his head to hold it in place and looks up at him, questioning. "You're going to catch a cold like that. I have a raincoat."

"You don't have to," Zhou Mi says, although there's a telltale warmth in his eyes.

"Yeah, I do," Kyuhyun says. "You have class in ten minutes."

Soon Kyuhyun's pants are wet and clinging to his thighs and his fingers are beginning to ache from the cold. Under his breath, he curses an earthworm and nudges it onto his folder. When it finally crawls on, he turns and tosses it into the grass.

"I feel like a monk doing penance," he mutters to himself. "You're going to be late," he says, louder. Zhou Mi looks up.

"Will you—?"

"Yeah," Kyuhyun says, waving him off. "I'll keep going. Go to class. Keep the umbrella," he says.

Zhou Mi gets up to release a final pair of earthworms by the side of the path. He walks back to Kyuhyun and bends down to press a kiss to his damp hair. "Thank you," he says.

"Why are you like this," Kyuhyun says to a hesitant worm, a reluctant smile on his lips.


Kyuhyun glances at his watch and realizes that he's just spent the last half-hour of his life transporting earthworms.

"What," he mutters. "I'm done." He flips one more to safety before he stands, stretching to ease the ache in his back and neck.

If he's careful about where he places his feet on the way home, that's his own business.