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like a tattoo made of light

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It happens suddenly.

Just one day, one moment, a single second, and it feels like everything is different. Like he sees the world in a new light, or as if he's seeing everything for the first time. Perhaps, in a way, he is.

The thing is that absolutely nothing seems out of the ordinary, perhaps that's what really confuses Joonghyuk. Because to anybody else, Kim Dokja is the same Kim Dokja that was there yesterday, and all the days before.

The one and only difference, as far as he can tell, is that he is lying right next to him, on his side with his back facing Joonghyuk.

Usually he chooses to sleep in some corner, with one or both of the kids stuck to his sides. Sometimes he even skips sleep altogether, choosing to stare at his lit up phone screen throughout the night, unaware that anyone is watching him.

Today, tonight, for whatever reason, Kim Dokja had fallen asleep right next to Joonghyuk, his phone that he would tightly clutch in his left hand suddenly slipping from his loosened grip. The other members of the group had already fallen asleep, or were in the process of it. Joonghyuk is the only one still wide awake, his eyes piercing through the dusty light provided by the moon filtering through the broken window of the abandoned building.

Perhaps it's because of the light of the moon, silver and glimmering, that Kim Dokja’s pale skin seems to glow. His nape, being directly in front of Joonghyuk’s eyes, is suddenly extremely appealing. His once neat hair was now slightly overgrown, the raven hair contrasting even more against his skin and the collar of his white coat.
He wants to place his hand at the base of his neck, stroke the skin with his fingers, press his face against him and breathe in, deep, deep. He's almost glad he can't see his face, because right now in this quiet yet rachous moment, it might be too much for him.

Because it's like suddenly everything is Kim Dokja, from what his eyes see to what he hears—soft relaxed breaths syncing with the rise and fall of his chest. It takes a moment for Joonghyuk to realize that his own breathing is following the rhythm Kim Dokja has set, exhale, inhale, like his own body subconsciously wants to become one with him. Perhaps if they both breathe in the world and let it out all at once, they can be closer.

He squeezes his hand into a fist before it can reach out to his life and death companion. When did it become this way? When did Kim Dokja stop being simply Kim Dokja? Or has it always been like this? Has he just been too oblivious of what his heart had truly been seeing all this time?

If he closes his eyes for a spell, he can perfectly picture him, this slightly smaller man, with wide sloping shoulders that elongate his neck but make him look even thinner and more docile than he really is. His sleek black hair which used to stop at his brow but now gets in his eyes every once in a while, and he has to push it off his face with an annoyed swipe of his slender hand, and sometimes Joonghyuk gets to see him do it, gets to see his pale forehead and dark eyebrows revealed, and he'd be lying if his heart didn't speed up a bit at the sight, and at the thought.

And… and, there's so much more he could describe, and easily. His brain has taken every single data point having to do with Kim Dokja and memorized it, categorized it into neat little folders that he can dig into whenever he pleases.

Like his smile, often crooked but welcome nonetheless, one corner rising more than the other, his eyes almost squeezing shut if he's truly happy. His eyes, with long lashes that framed the sparkle of constellations caught by the darkness held within them, the same lashes that fanned down and grazed his pale cheeks, which are plump when he eats well but so easily become gaunt when he skips too many meals. His lips are never chapped, and his skin is never dry, his nails are neat and trimmed, he's always clean when he can be, and he smells—what does he smell like? If he can just lean closer into him he could easily find out....

Joonghyuk opens his eyes again, and feels embarrassed by the encyclopedic-worthy amount of information he's collected about this man lying down next to him. Once more he wrestled down the gargantuan urge to place his hand on his neck, or on his shoulder, or on his small waist. It would be so easy.

So easy to get even closer, to be able to feel and not just hear his low breaths. If he did, he'd be able to hear even the occasional short hum that leaves his mouth. He'd be able to tuck in a stray hair behind his small ear.

He could do so much, but Joonghyuk knows better. He's only just now become aware of everything, only just now seeing it all for what it really is, he is nowhere used to it yet. Not used to the way he suddenly trembles with a need for closeness, for something more than what he can have. There's no way he can ever act on it anyway.

Things like this, feelings like this, he must keep locked deep in his heart, like a tattoo made of light that only he is allowed to perceive. It's not that it's a weakness, but it's certainly a distraction, and….even more than that, it's a painful reminder of his past mistakes. He can never be with someone without being reminded of their difference, of the fact that his life was boundless, and theirs was not. If he dies he regresses, and he would never get to see Kim Dokja again.

A strained sob rises up in his throat suddenly, and he chokes it down before he can wake anyone. He places his fist against his mouth and times his breaths, in, out, once again syncing with the one next to him.

He turns so his back is to Kim Dokja and closes his eyes to the night. If he moves so his body is an inch closer to his companion, no one makes notice of it in the morning.

Kim Dokja and everyone else goes about their day as usual, preparing for the next scenario and listening to Kim Dokja’s plans with a kind of focus only earned by absolute trust.

It's all the same, nothing has changed.

If Joonghyuk’s eyes follow Kim Dokja more than usual no one notices, if he's suddenly hyper aware of his presence whenever he moves past him, no one calls out the way he sucks in a small breath. If his gaze on Dokja becomes warmer and softer than usual, absolutely no one is surprised, because nothing has changed. From yesterday to today, they are the same Kim Dokja and Yoo Joonghyuk, hovering around each other like binary stars, stuck within their own gravity while everyone else can only watch.