Dohyun is convinced that he'll either die of cold or of hunger.
Maybe he'll get lucky and get hit by a car. Maybe old age might do him in after all, only old age is really just a slew of health problems, piled up on you until your body can't take it anymore, and rots into nothing.
But ever since the warehouse, deep down in his bones, Dohyun knows: it will either be the cold, or the hunger.
And it won't be because of the street, or the lack of money, or even a lack of food. It will be because of this: he feels cold, and he feels hungry, but he cannot move.
It gets bad. He starts to feel his stomach acid gnawing at his insides in an attempt to feel useful. He feels something hot and leaden settle in his veins, and he stops shivering. Definitely bad.
This is fine, he thinks. This feels right.
When Sungho comes to find him on the third day, Dohyun is still wrapped up in his blankets. He still hasn't moved. Instead of getting the hint, Sungho leans over him and presses his fingers against the sweat damp side of Dohyun's neck. They feel warm. They remind him of hunger, and for a moment, Dohyun hates him for it.
"You have to eat something," Sungho says gently. He turns Dohyun over onto his back. Dohyun can't even pretend to be asleep, and so he stares sightlessly at the ceiling.
"Too sick," Dohyun replies listlessly. "Not hungry," even though he is. There is a burning, aching, swelling feeling inside him, like something rotting. He is afraid that anything he eats will come right back up.
"Just open your mouth," Sungho coaxes. "Here."
Dohyun sits upright, lets Sungho maneuver him around like he's a mannequin. They're used to this, by now. Sungho's hand supporting the back of his head. Sungho's fingers curling around the back of his neck.
What he delivers into Dohyun's mouth is tasteless and cold. It's porridge, and not something likely to be thrown back up. Dohyun wants to laugh. Sungho really is treating this like an illness.
"This won't fix us, you know."
Sungho's hands tremble a little, holding the spoon.
I don't love you, Dohyun tries to say. Or: I don't love you anymore.
But his throat freezes up when he tries to get the words out. Sungho's touch is gentle now, but Dohyun knows how easily that gentleness can go away.
"You're wasting your time."
Sungho shakes his head.
"You'll get better," he says stubbornly. "You always do."
It's not until the fifth day that he says it - this thing that's been rattling around in his brain. It's not until the fifth day that he finally gives in.
"This is just like the back then," Dohyun says "This is just like the warehouse all over again."
Sungho freezes, from where he's been sitting in the corner and pretending to read. His book has been on the same page for the past half-hour. Dohyun watches him, tired, and wonders why he chose now of all times to pick a fight.
"No it's not," Sungho says, rising to his feet. "Dohyun, don't say that -"
"What's different?" Dohyun challenges. "I can't move - you're feeding me whatever you want - I can't leave. I can't go anywhere -"
His voice cracks with frustration, and then he falls silent when Sungho's shadow falls over him. A sharp sliver of fear worms its way through him, cutting quick into his marrow. Sungho looms over him. That's right, he had forgotten.
Sometimes, Dohyun forgets. He never really had a choice at all.
"You can't leave." Sungho has clearly gotten stuck on that particular phrase. There's a terrifying expression on his face now, something empty. Anger, on Sungho, is always strangely blank. Making him less human, not more. "You can't leave. Why would you say that? Why would you - you were the one who asked me to stay -"
He's right. Dohyun has, in fact, asked him to stay. Begged for it. For the rest of my life, he'd said. Never leave me, he'd said.
He regrets saying it now. Those words have become iron chains to him, the kind that locks around his ankles, the kind that chokes around his throat and makes it hard to speak.
I don't love you, he wants to say. I never did, even back at the warehouse, I just didn't want to be lonely.
Instead, he stares up at Sungho's face, rabbit-scared and frozen to the marrow.
"You'll get better," Sungho repeats stubbornly. His fingers come up to trace alongside the edge of Dohyun's jaw. The sensation makes Dohyun shiver, even though he barely has the energy to do anything now. It's the possessiveness in it, the way his fingers curl, just slightly. Mine.
He hates Sungho. He hates this place. For a long, sick moment, Dohyun hates himself too. He is an invalid in a dark room, a parasite. He hasn't seen the sun in days. He can't make his own food, can't function as a proper human being. He can't think about anything except for Sungho, and how much he hates him and needs him in equal measure. It's like he's become someone else entirely, hollowed out, his insides scooped clean, and all that's left is a shell.
"You really should have killed me, back then," Dohyun whispers.
Sungho's fingers freeze, his fingertips light on Dohyun's cheek.
"Now, it's just like waiting for the other shoe to drop," Dohyun continues, remembering - right, he used to be a fighter, he used to get angry at these things - gathering steam. "Now it's just like I'm waiting for you to decide what to do with me. I don't have a say in it at all."
Which, fair, he had given up any and all agency to Sungho after saying yes to the ropes and the handcuffs, after saying do whatever you want with me, I'm yours.
"Why would you say that." Those fingers clench around his jaw, thumb and forefinger holding his chin in a tight grip. Dohyun's head is jerked up. "Dohyun, I don't understand you. Why do you keep saying things like that?"
"Because it's TRUE!" In a sudden burst of anger, Dohyun knocks aside Sungho's arm. He holds up his hands, displaying his wrists - bone-thin and trembling hands. "THIS is what you've turned me into! This is all your fault! I TOLD you! I TOLD you this would never work, we could never make each other happy! I hate playing along with this - this happy-go-lucky-married-life you keep pretending at! It's not true! I hate not being able to refuse you. I hate that you think I owe you anything. I hate that you want me to be happy, but only if it's because of you, and only you, and nothing else."
His voice breaks. Sungho has caught his wrists in both hands, looking stunned. His hands are large and warm, and trembling.
"Okay," Dohyun had said, his fingers tight around the rope. He didn't like how just touching it made his heart race and made his skin crawl. He tried to ignore it in favor of Sungho, sitting in front of him like a model student. "Here's the deal. You can tie me up, but only with rope, and if I say stop, we stop."
"Okay." Hands on his knees, seeming ridiculously innocent for such a large man. Sungho blinked up at him.
Dohyun narrowed his eyes. A long moment passed before he sighed. He was just stalling now.
"Let's try this," he said reluctantly. He ignored the chill that raked its claws down his spine.
This is a bad idea, it told him. Don't do it, don't do it.
But Dohyun's whole life had been one bad idea after another, and this one was no different.
"Stop," Sungho says, but Dohyun can't seem to hear him. Something's wrong. He's not responding to anything. When Sungho tries to touch him, he just thrashes wildly, intent on hurting someone even if it's himself.
Sungho ties him to the bed, eyes wild, terrified again. He grabs a nearby pillow, smothers it over Dohyun's face, covering up his screams and spitting curses. WIth all of his weight, he bears down.
Drugs. Sedatives. He has to find -
But even the thought makes him flinch. That's an old, familiar thought. That's something the old him would do. He had sworn to Dohyun, over and over again, that they would never return to that. They would never go back to those days again.
I can't hurt him, he thinks wildly. Beneath him, Dohyun is struggling as if his life depends on it. His fingernails dig into Sungho's arm, his legs kick and writhe even as Sungho pins him down with all of his strength. Unreasonably, a flash of hurt lances through Sungho's chest. Why did Dohyun have to react like this? Why, why, why had it turned out like this?
"Please," he begs, tears streaming down his face. His vision is so blurred that he can't see. A gasping sob shakes him, the air hurting his lungs as it tears through him. He had wanted, more than anything, for Dohyun to be happy.
And yet they always end up here somehow.
They're circling, he realizes. They're doing this again. People don't change. No matter how hard they try.
"Dohyun?" He needs to fix this. He just has to fix this. "Dohyun, please."
There is no answer.
"I don't know what to do," Sungho confesses. "I know I'm killing you by keeping you here, but I don't know what else to do. I can't live without you. You mean everything to me. Dohyun? Dohyun, please, tell me what to do. Dohyun. Dohyun?"
The silence stretches on for a moment too long.