When Ten woke up, he had three missed calls from Kun flashing on the screen of his phone. He flipped it over and buried his face back into the pillow. When Kun rang again moments later, Ten was already asleep, deep in his dreams.
When he woke up again the sky was darkening, and Kun was unthreading his tie in front of the mirror. He caught Ten’s gaze in the reflection and smiled, soft.
“Hi, baby. How’re you feeling?”
Ten rubbed his eyes and made a valiant effort to pretend guilt wasn’t burning his oesophagus like acid. “Better,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll be back at work by next week. How was work?”
“The same as usual,” Kun said, hanging up his tie. It was the navy one Ten had bought him last Christmas, one that he’d painstakingly stitched their initials onto in gold thread. They were out of sight when Kun wore the tie, the thread pressed to the side of his neck. Romantic in heart and soul, Kun wore the tie whenever he knew he’d be having a stressful day. He said it comforted him to know that he carried Ten so close to him. “The board rejected Doyoung’s plans again, and most of my afternoon was spent hiding everything that was a throwable weight.” Kun grinned, rolling his eyes as he bent down by their bed to press a kiss to Ten’s forehead. “I rang Taeyong and asked him to get Doyoung out of the office, for the sake of everyone involved. They went to dinner, so things should be better tomorrow. You know he always perks up after an evening of Taeyong’s undivided attention.”
Ten nodded, arching his neck up, asking for another kiss.
Kun pressed their lips together gently, unable to hide his smile. “You seem much calmer,” he said, stoking a hand through Ten’s bird nest hair. “That’s great. Are you feeling well enough for dinner? I can make whatever you like.”
“No,” Ten said, struggling to sit up further. “I’ll make dinner, you’ve been working all day.”
Kun pushed him back into the pillows, forgoing gentleness with an ease that belied his cutthroat business mindset. “No,” he said sweetly. “Stay here or run yourself a bath. I’m making dinner.”
Ten’s throat tightened. “Kun-“
“Don’t make me tell you again, baby.”
“I missed your calls,” Ten said in a tiny voice. His lip trembled. “I’m sorry.”
Kun sighed. “Scoot over.”
With his head so foggy, Ten didn’t have the strength to argue. Especially not with Kun.
He made space at the edge of the bed, and then waited while Kun kicked off his polished leather shoes and climbed under the sheets, still in his suit. He wrapped Ten up in a warm embrace that smelt of coffee, smoke, and the Dior cologne he adored.
Kun kissed Ten’s forehead again, holding him tight. He felt grounding, like his arms were the only thing tethering Ten’s soul to his exhausted body. “Baby,” he murmured, “I was calling you because I was bored of listening to Doyoung’s complaining. There wasn’t an emergency, and you didn’t miss anything important. If you slept through the calls, I’m glad. You need the rest.”
Ten buried his face into Kun’s chest and tried not to cry. Days like this were worse than the days of feeling nothing at all. Being ill like this, when he knew for a fact that Kun fell in love with the Ten that was funny, sexy, a whirlwind of chaos and fun – it made Ten question why Kun was still around. Why he bothered.
“Will you speak to me, Ten?” Kun asked, rubbing Ten’s back. “Tell me what’s going on in that head of yours.”
But Ten didn’t want to say it out loud. He didn’t want Kun to carry even more of a burden, as if his physical state wasn’t enough of an issue without his mental weight too. “I’m just tired,” he mumbled.
Kun laughed gently. “I know that,” he said, warm. “We knew your chronic fatigue would flare up when you caught the flu. We were ready for this, remember? I was ready. I’m still ready, Ten. If it ever gets too much to handle then I’ll tell you, but we aren’t even close to that. We never have been, not yet. I love you, baby.”
The tears started to fall, but Ten kept his head down. If he held his breath for long enough, maybe Kun wouldn’t notice his shoulders shaking. “I love you too,” he managed to say, voice thick.
Kun’s hold tightened. “Remember on your twenty fifth birthday? I fell on the stairs and slipped a disc in my back and you had to care for me for months while I was recovering but you didn’t complain once. You didn’t begrudge my bad moods or my lethargy, Ten, you just gave me the time and space to recover, and I did. You will too, baby, you just need to be a little kinder to yourself while you’re still healing. You weren’t mean to me for taking my time, so why do it to yourself?”
“Because this is different,” Ten said, the tears falling faster. He hiccupped on a breath and tried not to curl into himself, to push Kun away even though all he wanted was to be closer.
“Why is it different?”
“Because you’re at work five days a week and my body is fine and all I do is lie here and sleep.” Ten lifted his head, uncaring of how ugly he looked. “I don’t deserve you. I don’t deserve this, your-“
His mouth closed with a click.
Kun lifted one hand from Ten’s back to wipe the hot tears from his face. “Baby,” he said, softer. “Your worth isn’t based on how much you do or how much you accomplish. It’s never been a question of deserving something, either. I love you, and I’ll love you until we’re saggy and grey. If you never worked again, that would be fine with me.” He smiled at Ten’s ugly , rubbing his thumb against Ten’s cheek. “We might have to find a smaller apartment if that were the case, but that wouldn’t bother me. I’d be happy living in a cave if I were there with you, because I fell in love with your personality, and that’s the reason I stick around. Everything else is inconsequential.”
“I don’t have a personality right now,” Ten said, insistent through the tears. They were slowing though, something hard and painful in his chest slowly melting because of Kun’s words, the unwavering adoration in his gaze.
“You do,” Kun said. He lowered his head to kiss Ten, despite the tears, despite the fact that Ten couldn’t recall the last time he’d felt so gross. “Your personality shines even on your darkest days, baby. Even now, you give me hope. You fight back, even at your worst.” Kun kissed him again, lingering. “You’re a fighter, even when you don’t feel like you are.”
“It doesn’t feel like I’m fighting,” Ten admitted. “It feels like I’m drowning.”
“Hey,” Kun said, slightly chiding. “Don’t do yourself a disservice. Attending Pilates with you when my back hurt didn’t feel much like fighting either, but it was. Everyone fights to keep going in their own way, and it doesn’t always look the same. Just because your struggle manifests differently to the way mine did doesn’t mean you’re not doing your best to fight them. Right?”
Ten nodded, sniffing.
“Right,” Kun said, firm. “You’re my best friend, Ten. I love you with all of my heart, and while seeing you like this hurts, it also makes me realise how lucky we are for all the memories we have to keep us going through the more difficult points.”
Ten nodded again.
Kun kissed him again. “I’m going to run us both a bath, how about that? We can have a soak together and then order something online to eat. Would that make you feel better?”
It definitely felt better than Kun cooking dinner. “Yes,” Ten said, voice rough and weak. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Yes please.”
Kun glowed. “Great. Do you want to get up now too, baby? You can pick which scented oil to put in the bath, and I’ll find us somewhere to order food.”
“Okay,” Ten said. When Kun sat up, Ten followed. He still felt hazy, but tears were no longer a dense pressure behind his eyes. He kept a tight hold of Kun’s hands as they wandered through to the bathroom, examining the jars of oil together as Kun pressed kisses into Ten’s hair. After deciding on rosehip, they moved to the couch, where Ten sat between Kun’s legs and balanced his laptop on his knees, leaning back to rub his face on Kun’s neck, uncaring of what was chosen for their dinner.
He fell asleep again, once submerged in the bath, but it was bound to happen. When Ten woke up, head against Kun’s damp chest, he wasn’t upset with himself, because Kun wasn’t upset. He was happy, if anything, stroking his fingertips down Ten’s bare skin, smiling like he didn’t have a care in the world.
“Come on,” Kun said, barely audible. “The food will be here soon. Let’s get dry and snuggled down on the couch again, okay, baby?”
Ten nodded, reaching for the plug. “Okay.” He looked back over his shoulder, unable to keep his eyes away from his husband for too long. “Thank you,” he said. “For this. For everything.”
Kun pulled Ten back for one last, lasting kiss. “You’re welcome,” he said. “And I know from experience that you’d do the same for me. I love you.”
Ten melted into him, as he always did. “I love you too,” he said, breathing in rosehip and gentle warmth.