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it won't be easy to quit me

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He sees him everywhere he goes.

He’s an entity, ever present and shrouded in black in both dream and reality. His smile is sly and sweet and familiar, and his voice is soft and airy and tempting, murmuring to him in the dead of night and down the trashed alleyways he so hurriedly rushes past.  He lingers at the threshold of his consciousness, polite enough to wait for his eyes to close despite the eagerness that’s sure to course through his own veins.

Moonjo is there, at every dead end street and each crevasse of his mind—and while it feels nothing like a haunting, Jongwoo cannot help but feel like he’s losing his mind, like he’s grasping for straws. He knows what’s real; he knows what isn’t. The bracelet so carefully crafted with teeth remains with him, always, tucked away in a little silk bag with a gold drawstring, protected in cotton because his stomach churns at the thought of anyone but the two of them laying their eyes on it. He sleeps with it under his pillow, hurriedly grasping for it upon waking up just to make sure, with a sigh of relief and a pang too close to his heart, that it’s still there—and it remains on him throughout his daily routine, never more than a few inches away.

Even now, it’s a heavy weight in the pocket of his sweats, scorching against his skin and sparking up a particular, hazy memory of an unspoken promise. His eyes stare at the darkened screen of his laptop, his mind drifting back to a sterile hospital room where his body was worn and sore and bruised but his mind was clearer than it had ever been before. He remembers nimble fingers at his wrist, warm and feather-like against his skin, the quiet clack of the bracelet closing around his wrist; and he remembers, so clearly, the way Moonjo had smiled at him, as if nothing else mattered now that the bracelet was with who it was meant for once again.

Jongwoo slips a hand into his pocket, carefully curling his fingers around the little silk bag just to feel the hard dentin press into his skin. It’s as he’s beginning to linger on what had happened next—Moonjo’s hand against his cheek, his thumb soothing the dark circle under his eye, the way Moonjo had bent down and leaned in, closer and closer until their faces were just barely apart—that movement far beyond the window catches his eye.

His gaze is instantly drawn to the alleyway, fixated on a murky shadow that looks so familiar in height and stance that it sets his heart racing. The fine hairs all over his body stand on end, reminding him of jolting awake from a nightmare in a cramped room with the strange sensation of eyes on him, of skidding to a halt in the middle of a busy street because of a handsomely dressed man beyond the crosswalk with dark curls swept out of his face like some runway model. It’s the same sensation, like a prey and a predator, but there’s something different about it, a striking contrast. Jongwoo’s heart doesn’t race with fear or anxiousness, but rather with an overwhelming sense of anticipation and yearning.

“Is that you?” Jongwoo murmurs as he squints, just barely able to make out the features of the shadowed face. Despite the ongoing dreams and the passages of time he had lost, months ago, Jongwoo suspects his quiet inquiry to be true. If he focuses just enough, he’s able to trace his eyes along the shape of familiar lips and deep set eyes that had more often than not seemed to gaze straight through him. Jongwoo’s heart feels like it’s faltering with how quickly it beats in his chest, and it’s as he’s leaning forward, his hand outstretched to open the curtains a little bit more, that he sees that mouth move, that his brain supplies Moonjo’s voice.

Jagiya.

He sees the mouth move in tandem with the endearment, sees it curl into a fond smile that is just for him and only him, but before his heart can fully erupt and urge him out the door and across the street into the alleyway, his cell phone blares to life.

Jongwoo nearly jumps out of his skin, sucking in a lungful of air he hadn’t known he needed until broken from his stupor. Blindly, he reaches for his cell, uncaring of the name or number on the screen as he swipes at where he thinks the green little button is before pressing it against the side of his face. “Hello?” he says hurriedly in greeting, his eyes already peering out the window again.

He expects it, of course—each and every time it happens. There’s no longer a murky shadow lingering in the alleyway, not anymore; nor is there a small smile inviting him in, teasing him with a challenge that always ends with a loving endearment. It shouldn’t sting as much as it does, not after how many times it’s happened, but Jongwoo feels the same sorrowful, angry burn in his chest each time. It hurts. He feels like he’s drowning in it.

“Jongwoo?” an urgent, familiar voice asks in his ear. “Hello? Are you there?”

Shit, he thinks, and then just as hurriedly as his greeting: “yes, sorry, hi. Uh, who is this?”

“…Officer So Junghwa,” the voice says slowly, unsure.

“Right, sorry.” Jongwoo clears his throat and tears his eyes away from the window. He taps at his keyboard to bring the screen back to life, but his mind strays back to the ghost of Moonjo just beyond his window, to the heavy weight on his chest that must be from Moonjo’s very hand. It was you, he thinks, anger and longing waging war close to his heart, so why don’t you just come on already? “Sorry,” he says again, and he tries to sound like he means it despite the fact he’s internally seething at her. “I was just… a bit distracted, is all.”

“Ah, I see,” Junghwa murmurs. “You must have a deadline coming up, I take it?”

“Something like that, yeah,” Jongwoo says tightly.

“I apologize for interrupting your work,” she says dutifully, but she doesn’t sound very sorry at all. Jongwoo rolls his eyes, and instead of hissing out the few choice words he has for her, he hums as politely as he can and hopes she takes it as her cue to keep talking. She skips the pleasantries and gets straight to the point. “I was just calling in to check up on you.”

More like to keep tabs on me, Jongwoo thinks as he tells her, trying for meek and pitiful, “you really don’t have to keep going out of your way like this, Officer.”

“It’s no problem at all,” Junghwa says easily, dismissing Jongwoo’s words as if they were merely for politeness sake. He hears what sounds like papers rustling on the other end of the line and a pen clicking in repetition. “It’s just… you know. It’s been a few months since the incident. I was wondering if anything’s come back to you at all.”

You ask me every single time, he thinks bitterly, glaring at the small, blinking cursor on the document he’s left open, and what’s my answer every time? “No, nothing at all,” Jongwoo tells her, and it’s such an easy thing now, to sound as small and as troubled as possible, as if he were truly regretful over his own helplessness. It’s like reciting lines from a script he and Moonjo had written themselves: “I’m sorry, Officer, but I still can’t recall much of what happened.”

“I see,” Junghwa says, small and thoughtful, and Jongwoo kind of hates her for it. “That really is a shame.”

“Is that all you needed, Officer?” he asks, too tired to care if she hears the growing irritation in his voice or not. It’s hard to play nice when all he wants to do is stare out the window and watch for a familiar shadow that may not come back for another week. “I should really be getting back to work now.”

“Oh, yes, of course; sorry to keep you.” There are more sounds of papers rustling followed by the faint sound of a chair squeaking, and then it all stops as Junghwa pauses. Jongwoo can hear the soft huff of breath that leaves her, like she had opened her mouth to say something specifically but then thought better of it. It isn’t hard at all to piece together what could possibly be running through her mind; she’s quite perceptive, after all, and far too good at her job for her own good—so maybe that’s exactly why she doesn’t say any more.

Junghwa does not comment on Moonjo’s missing body, nor does she press about the conveniently missing pieces in Jongwoo’s statement that he’s sure she’s stared holes into during each of their phone calls. She does not mention how lucky Jongwoo had been, to find a apartment so quick after being discharged from the hospital, nor does she congratulate him on the editorial job that had been so graciously offered to him a week later.

She doesn’t give away that she’s waiting for him to slip up, nor does she utter a word about how strange she thinks it all is.

“Thanks for your time, Jongwoo,” is what she says instead, polite and to the point with a smile in her voice. Then, as if reciting a line from her own script, she tells him, “Call me if you remember anything, no matter how small.”

“Sure, of course.” Jongwoo agrees as he usually does, with a fake little tilt of compassion in his voice that’s more for belief’s sake than not. “Bye, Officer So.”

“Talk to you soon, Jongwoo,” she bids, and Jongwoo comes to find that he cannot hang up the phone fast enough.

He taps at the red little phone icon quickly, breathing easier now that he’s not stuck in a conversation he had had no interest of being in to begin with. There’s a moment, here, as Jongwoo taps at the screen of his phone and brings up Officer So’s contact information, that he contemplates blocking her number right then and there—but the thought gets discarded as quickly as it had come. Jongwoo knows he can’t do that, at least not anytime soon. Officer So would wonder and worry about him despite the inklings of doubt she has about him, because she’s a good person; because despite that doubt, she’s capable of caring—because despite that doubt, she has no solid proof not to care.

Jongwoo sighs and tosses his phone onto the desk with little to no grace. He’s tired, his head hurts, and all he wants to do is lay his head down and look out the window until the sun sets, so that’s exactly what he does. He yanks the curtain open just enough so he’s able to see out of it before settling into his chair, aiming for comfort despite the awkward way he has to situate himself to achieve his goal—but it does not deter him in the slightest.

He leans into the desk, his arms folded beneath his chin. He stares out the window, noting all the different hues that paint the street as his eyes grow heavy.

Outside, the shadows do not move.

**

Jongwoo knows he’s in a dream despite his eyes still being closed. He feels hazy at the edges, weightless and heavy all at the same time, and no matter how much effort he puts into opening his eyes or moving a limb, he can’t. There are muted sounds all around him, background noise that almost feels a bit too stifling when accompanied by a pungent, sterile scent and rough linen sheets—but there is one sound that stands out above all the rest.

He focuses on the dry sound of pages turning not too far from where he lays, his heart lulled to a calm by its scratchy repetition.

Soon, Jongwoo’s able to open his eyes. The moment he does, the noise stops.

“Jagiya,” comes a familiar, deep voice. “You’re awake.”

Jongwoo lolls his head to the side, greeted with Moonjo’s familiar smile: the one that is jarringly fond and solely meant for him and only him. He wonders if he can blame the way his heart seizes in his chest entirely on the fact that this is a dream, but a little voice in the back of his mind tells him he cannot, that he’s long gone—that he has been, unwittingly, since the very beginning. Jongwoo wonders: how long has it been since he’s last seen that smile? Since he’s last seen the man who tore into his cocoon, unhidden by tendrils of shadows that lurk in the alleyway across the street?

“And you’re here,” Jongwoo says thickly, accusingly, once he finally remembers that he needs to breathe. He looks away. His companion doesn’t.

“Of course,” Moonjo says promptly. There’s the soft sound of a book closing, the shift of fabric as he leans forward. “Where else would I be, jagiya?”

Jongwoo remains silent, allowing himself to drown in the muffled background noise and in the intensity of Moonjo’s gaze. He stares at the bland, beige wall opposite of him, swallowing against the lump in his throat before he whispers, “Where you’re not.”

“Tell me. Where would that be?” Moonjo asks, infuriatingly curious, and Jongwoo should know by now, even in a dream, to not fall for the bait—but even the Moonjo of his subconscious knows him, inside and out, every which way and in between. He is just as coy and as vexing as he would be in the flesh. Still, despite this, Jongwoo cannot help the way he nearly breaks his neck with how quickly he turns to the other man, his lips curled into a snarl; but Moonjo does not look at all dismayed by the reaction. His mouth is still quirked into a smile, all of his deadly edges lovingly sheathed in the light of Jongwoo’s attention.

Jongwoo thinks he’s insufferable. Jongwoo thinks it almost feels too real to be a dream.

“Stop joking around,” Jongwoo demands, more of a hiss than anything else. His knuckles ache with how tightly he grips the thin linen sheets and his mind reels with the knowledge that the next words that come out of his mouth may hurt him more than he cares to admit. Jongwoo tries to keep his voice as even as he can, but his voice still shakes as he asks, “Where the hell are you?”

“Jagiya…” Moonjo sighs as he sets the book carefully aside. Jongwoo only barely catches the title on the cover: it’s the same book he thought he misplaced at the studio, the same book that Officer So returned to him after the incident—and it’s then that Jongwoo notices how quiet the room has gotten. His eyes snap back up toward Moonjo, who merely gives him a knowing smile before standing, impossibly graceful with how long his limbs are. It only takes a few steps until he’s next to Jongwoo, close enough to touch. “Where do you want me to be?”

“You—“ Jongwoo gapes at him, thoroughly irritated all the while Moonjo’s amusement remains evident in the simple way he holds himself. He stands beside him, inching closer, and Jongwoo’s taken back to that day in this very room, where Moonjo’s hand had cupped his cheek, where his thumb had soothed over the dark circle beneath his eye, where Moonjo had bent down and leaned in, closer and closer until Jongwoo had been able to feel Moonjo’s breath against his lips, until Moonjo had closed the brief distance and finally kissed him.

It had come to no surprise to him, that day, that he wanted it; nor does it come to any surprise to him now.

His gaze trails downward without his permission, his stomach twisting into knots once he sees that same knowing smile still curled to Moonjo’s lips. Jongwoo forces his gaze right back up, just quick enough to catch the glint in Moonjo’s eye. He can’t quite shake the feeling that Moonjo’s able to see right through him, even like this. “That…” Jongwoo mutters weakly, more breathless than he intends, “…doesn’t really answer my question.”

“And that doesn’t answer mine,” Moonjo points out, his smile widening at the glare Jongwoo gives him.

Jongwoo finds himself thinking, again, that Moonjo is insufferable. He has to resist the urge to tug at his hair and start screaming—and he almost gives in, until Moonjo seemingly decides to take pity on him.

“Don’t be so angry, jagiya. There’s nothing more I’d like than to give in to your raw honesty, but… there are loose ends that must be dealt with,” Moonjo tells him, extending a hand. His palm settles against Jongwoo’s cheek gently, lovingly—and it’s such a stark contrast that Jongwoo still cannot believe that he’s been on the receiving end of such a thing, countless times before. Jongwoo feels his entire body go lax with the touch, with the sincerity he feels underneath all of Moonjo’s crude power; and then his entire body stiffens, freezing on the spot as Moonjo leans in. “Do continue to wait for me, jagiya,” Moonjo murmurs, and then he’s closing the distance entirely.

*

When Jongwoo jolts awake, he’s still very much half in his dream.

Reality doesn’t settle, at first—his mind reels, going in circles with the illusion of Moonjo at his bedside and the ghost of his touch against his cheek. His heart thuds against his temples, so loud and fierce that he’s surprised to find out that the harsh noise he hears is just him, gasping for air like he’d been deprived of it by familiar hands and a welcoming grip. Jongwoo feels his stomach lurch just as his body flares up at the thought, a sick twist and pull that has his brain jumping from one incoherent need to the next, too quick for him to keep up.

Jongwoo’s body shakes with each staggering breath he takes all the while his brain supplies him with continuous little flashes of his dream. He feels like he’s drowning. It had been too real, so much of a mirror to reality that he wonders for a moment if he hadn’t just experienced some weird glitch in his subconscious. If not for the way he’s just been torn from dormancy, Jongwoo would swear up and down that the kiss had actually happened—that everything had actually happened: from waking up with the sound of pages turning close to his ear, to the lethal grace of the man who had stood beside him, to the lingering warmth that still resides on his lips.

When he runs his tongue over his bottom lip, Jongwoo comes to find that his mouth feels odd—swollen and hot to the touch rather than just pleasantly warm, like Moonjo really had just devoured him in the same way he’d like to devour Moonjo.

The thought had his stomach lurching again, much crueler than before.

Jongwoo squeezes his eyes shut, desperately trying to shove away all imagery of the dream his brain tries to grant him. He pointedly ignores how his bottom lip stings as if bitten, and by the time he feels like his best version of normal, he’s able to open his eyes without expecting Moonjo to be right there beside him. Here, Jongwoo takes a moment to stare at the ceiling, watching the shadows dance and allowing the fluidity in which they move to slowly lull him to a calm. He still feels shaken, completely and thoroughly drained, but he’s regained enough of himself by the time he finally decides to roll onto his side and slip a hand beneath his pillow.

Breathing comes much easier to him once his fingers curl around the little silk bag that contains his bracelet of teeth. He squeezes the soft pouch, focusing on the feel of the molars and the metal that press into his palm, a grounding sensation amidst his lingering, swirling thoughts. A soft sigh leaves him just as his heart aches, and Jongwoo comes to find it hurts worse than it normally does.

He still feels vaguely misplaced, even as he slips a forefinger into the little pouch just to run the pad of it over the first molar he comes across, and a fleeting moment is quick to come and go as he wonders whose tooth it was he just touched. It didn’t matter, not really—because above all else, Jongwoo knows who it was he’d rather have in his hold, and the thought has his body catching fire again, far beyond his control.

He remembers what it had felt like, to be against him in all the right places; just as much as he remembers how it had felt to be completely at his mercy.

Jongwoo rolls onto his back, quick as if to dispel his line of thought. He sets the little silk pouch to his chest as he tries, and fails, to keep his mind as vacant as possible, but it does no good. His thoughts bombard him, bouncing back and forth all the while remaining just jumbled enough that Jongwoo cannot fully decipher them—and in no time at all, his unease returns, overriding his prior tranquility. Even as he watches the shadows in their dance, the effect it had on him moments ago does not return. They sway about, intricate in their movements, but it doesn’t compare at all to the shadow he sees across the street, the shadow he wants to see more than anything—and that thought only morphs into another.

If he peers outside right now, in the dead of night, what would he see?

He wants to know. He wants to see, more than anything, a shadow moving at the entrance of the narrow alleyway, staring up at his window in the same way he stares down at the alleyway—forlorn and wanting, desperate and angry—but that would only truly apply to him. Jongwoo is the one who is kept waiting, after all; the one whose anger and fatigue and bitter lonesomeness follows him around like a reaper waiting to stake claim.

Is he crazy for feeling as hurt as he does, each and every time he peers outside only to find the same empty alleyway?

Jongwoo doesn’t care if he’s crazy or not, but at the same time, he is terrified to know what it is he would see for that exact reason. He’s terrified to look, seething at the prospect of feeling anything but elation or placidity when his gaze settles at the opening of the alleyway. All Jongwoo wants to see is Moonjo, real and outside a dream, unhidden by tendrils of shadows with the clear, unmistakable hum of an endearment on his lips.

He closes his eyes and imagines it, but even that doesn’t compare to how he knows it’ll feel to witness it again.

When he rolls out of bed, his footfalls sound almost deafening in the silence of the room. Jongwoo doesn’t peer out of the window, no matter how enticing that little sliver of the outside world is. He stares at the curtains, transfixed and tempted, before turning away. Instead, Jongwoo pulls the rolling chair out from beneath the desk, setting the silk pouch to his left as he sits, waking up his laptop from sleep mode.

It’s muscle memory, after that, to open up a new document and start mindlessly typing.

**

When Jongwoo steps into the apartment a week later, he cannot shake the incessant feeling that something’s off. Everything seems about the same as he’d left it—the door was locked, his shoes are lined up on the tiny rack by the door, a pile of books remain stacked haphazardly on the coffee table and the laundry basket is still full—but there’s something about the place that feels… weird.

But what’s weirder is the fact that nothing is out of place at all, despite everything in his body telling him otherwise.

He enters the apartment slowly, the gears in his brain turning as he shuffles his way into the kitchen. Jongwoo puts away his groceries, noting every little thing about the small area he can: the cupboards are organized the same as they always are, the black cat kitchen timer sits next to the microwave where he left it the night prior; the condiments he uses most are still arranged on the inside of the fridge door where he likes them, the small container of his favorite ice cream remains wrapped, unopened in the freezer.

Despite how normal everything looks, the alarms start blaring in the back of his mind—and it only worsens when he makes his way into the bedroom.

The blankets are still messed up, Jongwoo notices, and the shirt he wore to bed last night still remains on the floor by the foot of the bed. The clock on the little nightstand by the bed displays the (correct) time in a neon red glow, and there are a few more books stacked there, too close to the edge for comfort. His gaze skims across the room, wall to wall and ceiling to floor, but it all looks drearily the same. The curtain is still closed, only a sliver of the outside world still viewable, and his laptop—

It’s open.

Jongwoo stops short, his heart stuck in his throat.

Hadn’t he closed it?

Jongwoo doesn’t notice he’s holding his breath until his lungs start to burn in protest. He inhales shakily, his entire body trembling with it as his breath leaves him in an exhale, just as shaky.  It takes him several moments until he’s able to move, and once he does, it seems like he cannot make it across the room fast enough. Ten seconds feels more like ten years as he rushes to his desk, unable to control his urgency and uncaring of how foolish it makes him feel.

This was not something to take lightly, not after the hell he went through.

He’s quick to tap at the keyboard, waking it from sleep mode, but it doesn’t ease the little voice in the back of his mind at all. Upon first glance, his laptop seems pretty ordinary, too. The background is the same as it’s been since he’d last changed it a few months ago, a view of some snowy cliff somewhere he’s never been, and the files on the screen don’t look like they’ve been moved around at all. His eyes bounce around, taking in all the files and their names, and it’s as he’s moving the cursor down to open up the browser and the file explorer that he notices a file already opened on the taskbar.

It’s the software he uses to write, but he hasn’t sat down and written anything in days, too busy with his editorial work and his own little bout with writer’s block.

When Jongwoo clicks on it, he’s momentarily surprised to see the little snippet of word vomit he’d typed out the night he had woken up from the dream that felt too real to be a dream.

A phantom appears when he closes his eyes.

It hovers, near and far, always out of reach but somehow remaining just close enough to be stifling. He knows the phantom. He’s sure of it. It looms about, its smoky black figure swaying in an eerily familiar way; there is no one else he could mistake the phantom for—but that is just what the figure is: a phantom, faceless and more often than not, indescribable. How could he know if the phantom truly is the man who tore him down and built him back up again just by the lazy way it slinks around him?

The phantom doesn’t speak, he’s come to find out bitterly. No matter how often he talks to the inky shadow, whispers or utters a sound, the phantom only hovers. Most often, it seems to be smiling at him and sometimes, he even smiles back.

He wonders if the phantom is waiting. But isn’t it the other way around?

The phantom appears, too, even when his eyes are open; hovering, near and far, still out of reach.

It doesn’t sound too terrible, Jongwoo thinks, even if it does bring back a whirlwind of emotions that still manage to leave him just short of winded. He feels almost like how he had a week ago, with his eyes stinging with sleep and his heart heavy in his chest—but it disappears almost as quickly as it had come.

Jongwoo doesn’t recall writing any more than what he just read, and yet there are more words on the page, all in a different font.

That incessant feeling is back again, but neither that nagging feeling nor the blaring of alarms in his head dissuades him from reading the next few lines of text.

The phantom has grown tired of watching, of hovering.

Soon, the phantom will achieve tangibility, just within reach.

Jongwoo’s lungs are burning again. He takes in a ragged breath, reminiscent of how he had struggled to breathe after waking from his dream a week ago—except this time, he is fully aware of the reality around him. For all he had expected, this certainly wasn’t it. Those are not Jongwoo’s words, not the default font he uses. The flow of the few words on the page do not fit him at all, and there’s something about the words and the feelings they give him… they seem more like a message than a continuation in a different perspective.

His hand is shaking as he minimizes the document, right clicking on the file to bring up the properties tab.

It should come as no surprise to him that the date by the modified tab is the same date shown in the corner of the screen—but what gets to him the most is the time displayed alongside the date.

No more than an hour ago, Moonjo had been inside the apartment.

**

His day to day routine changes, just enough to be noticeable.

There are eyes on him. Not always, but Jongwoo can feel them when he ventures outside, lingering on his neck and down his arms.

Outside, the shadow moves at the entrance of the alleyway. Just like the eyes on him, the shadow isn’t there every day or night, but it’s there frequently enough to have Jongwoo looking out the window when he wakes well past dawn and after night settles when the dull light posts flicker on. The shadow lingers, and when Jongwoo focuses hard enough, he’s able to faintly see the same familiar smile and the same fond gaze that he’s come to search for in and out of his dreams.

Jongwoo smiles back, most nights—and on the nights he doesn’t, he wonders if what’s happening to him is real, if any of it is, if the last six months have been nothing but a coma induced play. He reasons with himself, on those nights: he sits at his desk, eyes heavy with sleep as he brings up the document that he more than likely knows word for word by now, with how often he stares at it. Jongwoo rereads the text, over and over, and if his gaze slips past the curtains and down to the alleyway just to watch the shadow move in amusement, the shadow does not seem to boast about it.

In fact, the shadow seems rather happy.

Strangely, Jongwoo does too, as he rereads the last line of text for the umpteenth time.

Soon, he thinks, his eyes lingering on the word, but then: how soon?

**

Jongwoo wakes to his brain on high alert, some days later.

It takes his body several moments to catch up, still feeling sluggish and heavy, still so tired from being hunched over his laptop well past midnight and far into dawn. His eyebrows knit together, trying to dispel remnants of a lingering dream where eyes had settled on him all throughout his slumber, and when he finally manages to blink up at the ceiling and note the dust scattered in the fiery rays of the sunset, Jongwoo notes that same incessant feeling telling him something’s off.

He can’t shake the feeling that it’s different, somehow. The air feels thicker, harder to breathe. Something about it makes his stomach twist into knots, unable to be detangled to matter how slowly he breathes. Jongwoo’s heart picks up in speed, fierce against his sternum, drumming in his ears. Instead of alarms blaring at the back of his mind, his skin prickles, the fine hairs on his arms standing on end as if under a watchful eye—but he’s already awake, his dream has already ended. But he can feel it: something’s wrong, though at the same time, strange as it is, it feels like he’s been waiting to feel something like this for a long, long time.

Jongwoo groans at the state of his feelings and his mind as a whole, pressing a palm to his forehead before he’s rolling over, his back to the window. He decides to just ignore it and go about his evening, mentally cursing himself because he could have sworn he had set an alarm before passing out that morning—but as his hand slips under the pillow, his mind comes to a screeching stop.

The little silk pouch of teeth isn’t there.

He sucks in a painful breath and scrambles to sit up, knees sinking into the mattress as he shakes the pillows vigorously before shoving them away, but it does him no good—that is, until he hears the familiar clink, clink of teeth knocking together.

Jongwoo stills. His gaze drops to his wrist, wide eyes fixated on the view. It’s been such a long time since he’s last seen this sight—and it isn’t much different from what he remembers. The weight of it is nostalgic, and the sight of white dentin contrasting against the tan of his skin makes him feel something indescribable: it reminds him of the fourth floor of the studio, it reminds him of that afternoon in the hospital, and it’s then that his mind comes to a screeching stop once again.

The air seems to shift, all the more difficult to breathe. There are eyes on the back of his neck, boring into him, and now that he’s felt it, there’s no way he can ignore it.

“You haven’t been wearing it, jagiya,” a voice says from behind, cool and calm, so unlike Jongwoo’s mind and his heart. He hears the creak of a chair and then the soft sound of a book closing. “I suppose it does stand out, doesn’t it? Would you like something a little more discreet? I’ll make anything you want.”

Jongwoo squeezes his eyes shut, fighting against every impulse in him to turn around. For as much as he wants to, for as much as he wants to see, to look, to finally witness the nightmare that is his best dream, the thought of it is still as terrifying as it had been before, when all he had wanted to do was stare at the alleyway and see Moonjo standing there, unhidden by tendrils of swirling shadows, smiling up at him and calling out to him.

There’s another creak of the chair, another quiet sound of a book being set aside, and then: “Jagiya?”

If Jongwoo were to turn around now, what would he see?

A monster at his desk, grotesque and distorted, a nightmare he will relive every single time he sits there? Or would he see the monster hanging from the ceiling, quite like a bat, its red eyes gleaming with malice and mockery?

The possibilities are endless. His mind is a cruel place.

“I’m right here, jagiya,” Moonjo says calmly, but his voice hasn’t come any closer. Jongwoo feels his gaze, seeping into him, burning his skin. He hates it, he loves it; he drowns in it, he thrives in it—all this time, this is what he’s been missing, what he’s been yearning for, what he’s been asking for every single time he looked out the window and into the alleyway. He never thought this day would come, but now that it’s here, he’s rendered motionless. “Would you like me to come closer? That way, you could see for yourself just how tangible I am.”

“…Come here,” Jongwoo finally says, more of a rush of breath than anything else. He stares at the rumpled sheets in front of him, his mind zeroing in on the feel of dentin against his wrist. Behind him, the chair squeaks again, but the floorboards do not give beneath any sort of shifting weight—and Jongwoo knows what this is, ultimately: a silent inquiry, just to be sure. Jongwoo hangs his head and bites the inside of his cheek until he tastes blood. “Get over here, Moonjo.”

The floorboards creak behind him.

It’s a slow, agonizing thing—the steady rhythm of footsteps coming closer and closer until they finally come to a stop. Jongwoo holds his breath; he doesn’t dare move an inch. He can feel Moonjo, right behind him, a mere arms length away: his warmth, his gaze, all of his uncontrolled need carefully hidden beneath the surface. Jongwoo feels like he’s swimming in it, his lungs burning as he breathes in Moonjo’s twisted affection—but it’s a lovely kind of pain, Jongwoo thinks, so very different compared to a slice of a knife or a blow to the ribs.

“It pleases me to see you left our collaboration as is; however… I’m afraid an apology is due. I don’t quite have a way with words like you do, jagiya,” Moonjo says, and before Jongwoo can fully process the words and respond, there are fingertips brushing against the nape of his neck.

Jongwoo’s entire body reacts, far beyond his control. He sucks in a sharp breath, his body trembling in tide with the shiver coursing through him. His mind momentarily blanks out, solely focused on the feel of Moonjo’s hand against his neck after months of being deprived of it, and he cannot find it in himself to be ashamed of the sound that leaves him, a mix between a dry sob and a groan as Moonjo’s hand slides to the side of his neck. His palm is warm, jarringly so, but Jongwoo has to remind himself that Moonjo is human, too.

Moonjo is human: he’s warm, his heart beats. He’s just as riddled with emotion as Jongwoo himself is.

It’s almost a laughable thought, but there’s something about it that’s so grounding. Like this, Jongwoo cannot laugh, cannot think, cannot do much else but bask in the feel of Moonjo’s thumb against the knob of his spine and his fingertips against the protuberance of his Adams apple. He doesn’t tilt his head back, and Moonjo doesn’t force him.

He isn’t sure how long they stay like that, but by the time Moonjo speaks, the sun has completely set beyond the window behind them.

“Tell me,” Moonjo murmurs, just barely above a whisper. He runs the pad of his thumb against the knob of Jongwoo’s spine, more than content to watch the way Jongwoo’s body reacts, the way his spine bows inward. It’s thrilling, beyond exhilarating, but it only goes to show that he stayed away for too long. Moonjo tilts his head, cataloguing every single twitch and sigh that comes from the man in front of him. He isn’t done testing him, not yet. “Where do you want me to be?”

Jongwoo opens his mouth, but not a sound escapes him. All he can focus on is the warmth behind him and the solid weight of Moonjo’s hand on his neck. His mind struggles to keep up, morphing his prior dream with reality.

Where you’re not, he thinks deliriously, his head fogged with a dream, where you’re not.

“Sit,” Jongwoo rasps instead, his throat gone tight. “Just… sit down.”

Moonjo retracts his hand without another word and immediately, Jongwoo finds himself mourning the loss. It’s a similar feeling to the one he had when he watched Moonjo walk away from his spot on the stretcher in the ambulance: it feels like a stab to the heart, like a punch to the face. The discomfort is still there, coiling in the pit of his stomach like an angry, bitter storm, and maybe that’s exactly the reason why his prior urgency takes hold again.

Jongwoo’s unable to stop himself, his brain convincing him that if he doesn’t set his eyes on Moonjo within the next half a second, all this may as well have been another cruel dream. The bed dips beside him and his head whips to the side, his eyes wide as he focuses on the sight of Moonjo before him.

He’s barely changed at all, Jongwoo notices, and something about it eases that angry, bitter part of him if only by a bit. Jongwoo knows he’s staring, but what else is he to do? He’s only seen this man in dreams and darkness for the past half a year. He still looks very much the same. Moonjo’s hair is longer, but he still looks laughably respectable and refined, like he’s beyond touchable, a higher power only a deity could hope to rival. He’s clad in black, matching the shadows head to toe, and he’s got that same, knowing curve to his mouth and a sharp glint in his eye that tells Jongwoo he’s an open book.

It isn’t surprising to Jongwoo at all, that he doesn’t really despise this feeling.

“Were you expecting a ghost, jagiya?” Moonjo asks, effectively pulling Jongwoo out of his own thoughts and back into the moment. He tilts his head, an eyebrow quirked, and when Jongwoo meets his gaze, he can’t quite decipher the look in Moonjo’s eye. “Well?”

It takes Jongwoo a moment to answer, and his voice comes out more ragged than he anticipated. “I’m not sure what I expected,” he says honestly. “I wasn’t sure if you’d actually show your face again.”

“But I have, haven’t I? Our eyes met, jagiya,” Moonjo reminds him, his body tilting toward him. “I could feel your eyes on me as heavily as I’m sure you’ve felt mine on you.”

Anger is quick to rise, burning hot on Jongwoo’s tongue. “You—“ he starts, but Moonjo cuts him off, not phased at all by his anger as he leans away.

“Let me rephrase. Do you think I’m a ghost?”

Just like that, Jongwoo’s anger reduces to a simmer. A familiar thought surfaces again—you’re so fucking insufferable—but despite that, Jongwoo’s anger does not rise again. He stops short, momentarily surprised by the question and soon enough, his surprise turns to uncertainty. Jongwoo feels himself falter, his guard lowering, his heart opening. All of his hopefulness rushes to the surface, and it’s so hard to ignore the sense of longing he feels, coiling around his ribs and knocking against his sternum.

“I…” Jongwoo murmurs, fighting against the newfound tightness in his throat. His thoughts are spinning so fast in his head that he can’t keep up. You’re a ghost, he thinks, and then: no, you have to be real. Jongwoo stares at the man next to him, taking in all of his familiarity—to the way he tilts his head and the way the air hangs around him.

If Moonjo is real, then what?

More importantly… if he isn’t, then what?

The words are out of his mouth even before the thought is even complete.

“I’m hoping you’re real,” Jongwoo whispers steadily.

“Ah, jagiya. I do love it when you’re honest,” Moonjo sighs, his smile nothing if not joyous. It’s reminiscent of the smile he’d given Jongwoo on the fourth floor of the studio and in the hospital room: he looks thoroughly overjoyed, like nothing else could possibly hold a light to this moment. “Would you care to see for yourself? There’s no need to be shy. You’re welcomed to me.”

Once his words click, Jongwoo’s body moves before his brain can scream otherwise. Jongwoo rushes forward blindly, urgent and quick as he reaches out to indulge in what he’s been offered, as he clambers into Moonjo’s lap as if there were no other spot for him. Warmth seeps into his palms as they slide against Moonjo’s clothed chest, trailing up and up until his fingers graze against the refined curves of a pair of clavicles. Jongwoo swallows against the lump in his throat, struggling to control his shaky hands as they gravitate toward Moonjo’s neck, as the pad of his thumb presses against the hollow of his throat.

Moonjo is solid against him. He’s warm as well as surely deadly and elegant beneath his clothes—that much Jongwoo has confirmed, but something still doesn’t seem right. Even as he tests the waters and pushes against Moonjo, even as Moonjo levels him with a searing look and complies, allowing himself to fall back onto the bed, something still doesn’t seem right.

He cannot help the desperation that claws at him, now.

“What the hell,” Jongwoo mutters, that same anger and bitterness from before thick on his tongue, but it doesn’t stop him at all from shifting his weight. He hovers over Moonjo, his knees sinking into the mattress on either side of his hips, and despite how riveting it is, to be against him like this once again, Jongwoo’s anger does not diminish. It rises, higher and higher until red is all he can see.

Beneath him, Moonjo looks more like a marble statue than anything else, and it only makes Jongwoo all the more outraged, all the more confused. This isn’t what he’d been expecting at all; but then again, what had he even been expecting?

“What the fuck is your deal?” Jongwoo demands. He stares down at Moonjo, enraged and bewildered, his hands curling into fists against the man’s ribs. Not once has he lifted a finger, not once has Moonjo raised a hand and touched him in return. Wasn’t Jongwoo supposed to be a masterpiece, his finest work? Or has his glory run its course? The thought has his skin running cold, heightening his desperation. “Why the fuck aren’t you doing anything?” Jongwoo hisses, jostling him, but the only movement that comes from Moonjo is the rise and fall of his chest, and even that is out of necessity. Moonjo hasn’t moved an inch nor has he uttered a single sound. “What’s your fucking problem, Moonjo? Say something. Do something, you fucking—“

“I’m sure I’ve told you before, jagiya,” Moonjo says, his voice far too leveled for Jongwoo’s liking as they stare at each other. Moonjo looks completely composed, still so put together despite how another man is straddling his hips and seething down at him. Jongwoo watches as Moonjo’s head tilts, just barely a fraction of a movement that he would have missed had he not been intently looking for it. “Haven’t I?”

Jongwoo’s brows knit together. “What—?”

“Once I bite, I never let go,” Moonjo reminds him quietly. “If I take you, you’re mine forever.”

“Are you—“ Jongwoo sputters, feeling almost half out of his mind. His anger bristles higher, but the relief and spike of pleasure he feels alongside it too strong to overlook. Moonjo’s words are on repeat in the back of his mind, quite like a mantra he wouldn’t mind hearing for the rest of time. I never let go. You’re mine forever. His head spins and his chest feels like it’s caving in; Jongwoo feels so beyond exasperated and angry that it’s almost laughable. He hunches over, gripping the collar of Moonjo’s shirt as his other hand stays splayed at his ribs. “Are you stupid, Moonjo?” Jongwoo asks in a hiss, shaking him by the collar. “I’ve been yours, asshole. You’ve taken me apart and molded me into an exact fucking fit, remember? So why don’t you quit messing around and—“

Moonjo surges forward, so quick that Jongwoo hadn’t even a chance to anticipate his movements. His words are interrupted with a rough kiss, searing and desperate, messy with urgency. Moonjo licks into Jongwoo’s mouth, claiming, forcing him to stay close with a firm grip at the back of his head—and a part of Jongwoo wants to bite into his lip and swallow his blood, to tear himself away and seethe at him only to claw in closer. How dare Moonjo think he would try to escape when all he’s wanted the past half a year is to be ensnared again?

The flash of annoyance doesn’t last long, however. How could it, when Moonjo is drinking him in like he’s some sort of fabled elixir?

Jongwoo groans into Moonjo’s mouth, loosening the hold he has on his collar in favor of molding his palm to the slope of his neck. Moonjo is warm, so warm, alive and lethal and finally, finally here—Jongwoo cannot help the way his elation goes straight to his head, prompting him onward. He grinds his hips down, chasing whatever Moonjo will allow him to take. The grip in his hair prevents him from gaining any sort of dominance to the kiss, but like this—pressed against each other as they are, with Jongwoo hovering on top of him, this is something he’s free to take, and he’s more than eager to do so.

They kiss each other like they’re starving, like this is the first time in a millennia they’ve been allowed to touch one another. Jongwoo’s hands graze every inch of Moonjo they can, frantic and purposeful as if he’ll never be able to do this again—and while the thought does loom about at the threshold of his mind, Jongwoo tries not to pay it any heed. He’s desperate enough as it is, but as Moonjo sighs into the kiss and tugs at Jongwoo’s hair, it seems like he doesn’t mind at all, and it only spurs Jongwoo onward.

He slips his hands beneath Moonjo’s shirt, clawing at his waist and hoping that the blunt of his nails leave harsh red lines against his skin. Jongwoo moans into Moonjo’s mouth as he rolls his hips, low and guttural, a noise that he cannot fully believe comes from him, but it must, considering how strung out he feels—and as if their thoughts are one, Moonjo breaks the kiss, tightening the grip he has in Jongwoo’s hair to keep him from surging forward.

Before Jongwoo can even curse or hiss at him, Moonjo’s grabbing his shoulder and flipping them over in one fluid motion—and it happens so fast, too quick for his mind to fully keep up. Moonjo’s strength, his agility… he hasn’t weakened at all in their time apart. If anything, the man now above him, slotted between his parted thighs, seems even more dangerous than he had been before.

It’s a heady thought, one that has Jongwoo’s mouth going dry and his dick getting harder. He remembers how powerful Moonjo had been, back at the studio, when he had rendered him half unconscious and bloody before dragging him up to the fourth floor. He remembers getting tossed around, hauled up onto flat surfaces, dragged down onto the floor. It’s not something Jongwoo would easily forget, if ever.

“You’re thinking of me,” Moonjo murmurs, and Jongwoo knows it isn’t a question. He knows that Moonjo knows he is thinking of him, of the studio, of all the crazy shit he’s done to ensure they’d be right where they are now. And there must be some sort of expression flitting across his face, unbeknownst to Jongwoo, because then Moonjo’s smiling down at him in the same way he had months ago: appreciatively and obsessively. “I’m pleased, jagiya. Really.”

Jongwoo’s entire body feels like it’s on fire. He wants to reach up and smother Moonjo with his hands, to cover his eyes and his creepy smile, to wrap his hands around his throat and watch as his eyes become void of life, but he doesn’t. His hands slide up underneath Moonjo’s shirt instead, fingernails raking along his skin and digging in. He hopes that he draws blood, that he leaves little moons that will crust over and fade away. Jongwoo cranes his neck up, infatuated and irritated, the only thing on his mind being the need to feel Moonjo all around him and the need to make it last as long as he’s able.

If Moonjo is going to disappear again, Jongwoo will make sure to leave his mark.

“Fuck you,” Jongwoo hisses, but it comes out more breathless than he intends, an exact mirror to how he feels. This all still feels sort of like a dream, but there’s no denying Moonjo’s warmth and his laughter. When Jongwoo glances up, he’s left to watch as Moonjo leans away from him, too far for his hands to touch anymore; and soon, touching becomes a secondary thought.

“In due time,” Moonjo tells him, thoroughly amused at the look Jongwoo levels him with. He strips off his shirt and tosses it aside, uncaring of where it lands. Looking down at Jongwoo like this, he looks much like the prey he’s been long awaiting for—wide eyed and mouth agape, his chest rapidly rising and falling with each quick and heavy breath, but Moonjo has never once been a fool. The closer he leans in, the less distance there is between them, he sees that fascination in Jongwoo’s gaze morph further: hotter and brighter, obsessive and angry, so similar to how Moonjo feels in the moment.

Moonjo finds himself thinking that Jongwoo truly was made for him and no one else. Jongwoo is more than just a mere masterpiece to gaze upon and watch unfurl; Jongwoo is truly an exact fit, a mirrored opposite of Moonjo himself. This man beneath him, all of his fire and his craze, Moonjo wants nothing more than to bury himself in it, to choke on the embers all the while Jongwoo falls along with him, drowning in Moonjo’s uncontrolled need, his own brand of heat and obsession.

The words are out of his mouth before he can stop them, but a small, desperate part of Moonjo doesn’t want to halt the words at all. They pour out of him, two simple words alongside a name, but it holds so much for the two of them, as they are now. Perhaps it’s another test, a way to gauge Jongwoo’s twisted fondness in comparison to his own, but he needs to see the way Jongwoo reacts, needs to witness his response and either fall joyously into him or destroy the both of them.

“You’re mine, Jongwoo.”

Jongwoo’s expression fades into something Moonjo cannot quite decipher, and it’s such a strange thing, the way the world around them does not crumble to pieces. Jongwoo holds his gaze steadily, eerily composed in light of such a grand declaration that has the power to bind the two of them together until they die. Moonjo expects Jongwoo to curse at him, to flail and shove him away, to tear his skin apart and wish him dead, but Jongwoo still manages to be so full of surprises.

“Asshole,” Jongwoo mutters, but it lacks any real heat. His hands come up, and instead of finding himself robbed of breath, Moonjo finds his face being cupped in both of Jongwoo’s hands. Jongwoo forces him down, holding his gaze as he tells him, “that sort of thing goes both ways, you hear?”

Moonjo barely keeps his laughter contained. It rushes out of him, quite like how his proclamation had a moment ago—and it’s then, as one of Jongwoo’s hands slides against his scalp and tugs at his hair, that Moonjo decides to joyously fall into him.

“You’re also staking claim, jagiya?” Moonjo asks, and given the situation, perhaps he shouldn’t try to provoke him, but how can he resist? Jongwoo curses against his chin and tugs at his hair, a harsh pull that has Moonjo’s head jerking uncomfortably to the side, but it does nothing if not make him laugh more.

“Shut the hell up,” Jongwoo hisses, and quickly closes the distance between them.

*

The more impatient Jongwoo becomes, the longer Moonjo drags this on. He should know better, by now, as far as they’ve come, to not show any sort of vulnerability to the man kneeling behind him—but Jongwoo cannot really think, given the circumstances.

Moonjo takes him apart so effortlessly, leisurely, as if time has stopped and rendered the two of them suspended in their own little world. Jongwoo isn’t sure how long Moonjo’s had his fingers in his ass, scissoring him open, stroking the deepest parts of him, but surely it’s been long enough. His cock is so hard that it aches, hanging heavy between his legs, and he’s sure there’s a puddle of precum beneath him on the bed. His knees hurt, his thighs are trembling, and every time Jongwoo tries to thrust back onto Moonjo’s hand, the pressure inside him eases up almost to the point of disappearing altogether.

Jongwoo groans into the blanket bunched up under his head, uncaring that his own drool smears on his cheek as he buries his face into the material of it. He pushes back, wincing at the ache in his knees, but Moonjo doesn’t allow him any pressure, any friction.

“Bastard,” Jongwoo hisses, but he knows the threat hidden beneath the word must be laughable, in his current position. He doesn’t want to think about how his ass in up in the air and on display, doesn’t want to think about how Moonjo’s tongue had worked him open before he replaced his mouth with his fingers, doesn’t want to think about how bad he wants to cum and bite into the flesh of Moonjo’s shoulder, his neck, his arm—but it’s all Jongwoo can think about. “I’m, nngh… f-fuck…” He holds his breath and bites at his lip, his whole body shaking. “I’m not made of glass, you fucking bastard.”

Behind him, Moonjo laughs, a deep and rumbling sound. He crooks his fingers, barely applying any pressure against Jongwoo’s prostate just to watch him groan and shake. “I’m well aware of that,” he tells him, rubbing soothing circles against Jongwoo’s lower back with his free hand as his other thrusts in deeper, shallow little motions that have Jongwoo’s hips rocking forward. “But, you see… For as much as I want to ruin you, jagiya, I’ve grown tired of needlessly hurting you.”

Jongwoo’s breath hitches at his words. He rocks back onto Moonjo’s hand, his knuckles gone white with how fierce his grip on the sheets is. “F-Fuck, Moonjo, just—“ His words are cut off by a groan, his body jolting in pleasure as Moonjo works him looser. The sensation goes straight to his brain and down to his dick. He’s so turned on it hurts, but he knows the moment he tries to snake a hand down to touch himself, Moonjo will stop him. He isn’t sure what Moonjo will do to him if it happens a third time, and while the thought sends a thrill up his spine, he doesn’t want this to drag on any longer. “I’m fine, it’s fine, s-so just, nngh…” Jongwoo tries to muffle his moan with the blanket, but he’s still so loud. It’s impossible that Moonjo doesn’t hear him, that he doesn’t feel his body react. “J-Just, come on, hurry.

“How greedy,” Moonjo muses lightly, his tone teetering on the edge of playful. He’s not as careful as he has been as he pulls his fingers out of Jongwoo, but he’s loose enough now that he doesn’t hiss in discomfort.  Still, Moonjo presses his cleaner hand to the small of Jongwoo’s back all the same, his touch heavy and soothing as he shifts on the bed. When their skin touches, Jongwoo shivers, and it has a similar effect on Moonjo as well. “But I’m thrilled that it’s greed for me, jagiya.”

“Fuck you,” Jongwoo rasps, and all Moonjo does is chuckle in response. He feels Moonjo move behind him, shifting and touching, and then it’s like his brain stutters to a stop. Jongwoo’s hips jerk, his body shifting forward as the wet head of Moonjo’s dick presses against the rim of his hole. His heart catches in his throat, his eyes widening almost uncomfortably so as Moonjo works himself in; despite all the stretching and all the teasing, there’s still the briefest sting of pain as the head finally slips inside. A moan slips out as his breath rushes out of him, and it’s all Jongwoo can do not to rock his ass back and fuck himself on Moonjo’s cock like he’d die if he doesn’t.

“Jagiya,” Moonjo murmurs, and it sounds different, compared to before. Jongwoo can’t really see him like this, with his ass up in the air and his cheek pressed into the blanket under him, but he can’t help but feel like Moonjo sounds softer, more vulnerable. He rolls his hips, sheathing himself a few inches deeper into Jongwoo, and the sound that comes from him sounds like something you’d only hear in the wild. It only heightens Jongwoo’s arousal, making his dick twitch and jerk against nothing, heavy as it hangs untouched between his spread legs. “Jagiya… ah, you’re lovely… so much better than how I thought you’d be, dearest.”

“Moonjo, j-just… fuck,” Jongwoo groans, wincing as his knee slips further out on the bed, spreading his legs wider. He rocks back, shallow little thrusts that do very little to help the cock in him slide deeper, but it still feels good, teasing little motions inside of him that has him seeing stars but wanting more. His fingers loosen and tighten on the sheets, his joints achy. He almost regrets letting Moonjo fuck him in this position, but the fullness he feels makes up for not being able to see his face fully. “Moonjo… Moonjo, I’m—“

Moonjo’s hips snap forward, and whatever else had been on Jongwoo’s tongue dies there, replaced with a guttural sound as the sharp slap of their skin resounds in the room around them. Jongwoo trembles in front of him, the muscles in his back tensing as Moonjo grinds against him, working to get as deep inside of Jongwoo as he can. He slides a hand up Jongwoo’s back, slick with a thin sheen of sweat, but it doesn’t deter him at all; one hand presses against the space between Jongwoo’s shoulder blades and the other grips his hip, fingers digging into flesh.

“Look at you, jagiya…” Moonjo sighs, dragging his hand down Jongwoo’s back, his thrusts becoming sharper the more his jagiya shudders beneath his touch. His fingers trail along Jongwoo’s spine, following the slight curve of his lower back. Moonjo looks down at where they are one, watching as his cock disappears inside Jongwoo’s hole, hot and wet and so tight he’s tempted to cum deep inside him, to stuff him full and leave him wanting. It’s a tempting thought, one he would act on if only it wasn’t their reunion. “If only you could see how stunning you look.”

Jongwoo moans, his hips rocking back quickly to meet Moonjo’s thrusts. His words are garbled, an incoherent mess of sound that Moonjo has no hope to decipher. He feels so strung out, so full; his neglected cock must be weeping at this point, and while Jongwoo wants nothing more than for his dick to be touched, he can’t quite form the words. They’re heavy on his tongue, clouded in his brain, lost in translation as Moonjo eases out deliberately only to thrust back in with one quick motion. It has him jolting forward, his knees hurting, his shoulder sore. Jongwoo wants so bad he’s mad with it.

Moonjo,” he rasps.

“Jagiya,” Moonjo praises. He grinds against him, slowing his pace and the intensity as he folds himself over Jongwoo, his front pressed to Jongwoo’s back. Like this, the angle is different, and it must feel heavenly, judging by the choked sound that comes from his jagiya’s throat. It’s difficult to thrust as hard and sharp as he’d like, like this, but the rolling motions and grinding of his hips must have an inkling of the same effect. Jongwoo shakes under him, his tremors so easily felt by Moonjo as he’s blanketed over him. “Relax, dearest,” he murmurs as he mouths at Jongwoo’s shoulder, sucking bruises into the skin before biting at the blossoming hickey. “Are you going to come, jagiya, just like this?”

“Fuck, yes, yes, I’m—“ Jongwoo chokes on his words, sputtering in his haste to get them out. He feels his knees slide down as Moonjo’s weight settles on top of him, the more he grinds and rolls into him. It’s almost too much, the slight drag of his cock rubbing against the wet sheet beneath him. Jongwoo squirms as Moonjo’s hand snakes in between the bed and his chest, and he barely even registers Moonjo’s fingers settling on his neck until pressure is applied and the low, restricted pulse of his blood beats in his ears like a warning drum. “Moonjo.”

“I’m not going to touch you,” Moonjo tells him, voice rough with arousal. He relaxes the hand around Jongwoo’s neck, but his palm stays there, nestled to his Adams apple, marveling in the way it moves against his skin before he applies pressure again. Moonjo hears Jongwoo’s breath catch in his throat just as much as he feels the muscles tense and relax as he chokes on a broken moan. “I will not allow you to touch yourself either, jagiya; you will come on my cock or not at all.”

“Fuck,” Jongwoo moans, his eyes squeezed shut. Moonjo’s words go straight to his dick; he feels even more close to the edge than he had before. Jongwoo feels his body loosen and tighten, trembling and twitching the more Moonjo fucks him, and now, with the entire front of his body almost laid completely onto the bed, it’s easier for Moonjo to snap his hips forward. The sound of their skin slapping muddles all thought in his head. He feels himself tighten around Moonjo, and when a deep moan sounds from behind him, his dick leaks even more. “Y-Yes, god, just fucking—“

“Beautiful boy,” Moonjo praises, kissing at the knob of Jongwoo’s spine. “Let me give you what you want, jagiya. Let go.”

Jongwoo swears he sees stars, bright behind his eyelids. Moonjo thrusts into him just right, the force of it jostling him slightly forward and causing his dick to grind into the bed beneath them. The hand around his throat doesn’t let up, either; it only heightens his high, makes him wish it would last forever and stop in an instant because it’s almost too much to bear. It’s hard to form coherent thought in the midst of his own arousal, but when Jongwoo manages a choked out, “c-close, fuck, Moonjo, so close,” Moonjo responds in kind.

“That’s it, jagiya,” Moonjo sighs, licking and biting at the nape of Jongwoo’s neck. He rolls his hips and tightens his hold around Jongwoo’s neck, fucking into him the way he’s quickly learned Jongwoo likes it. “Good boy,” Moonjo praises, moaning against Jongwoo’s skin as he tightens around him. “Let go, jagiya, can you let go? So good, so perfect, my own.”

Jongwoo’s mouth falls open on a moan, his entire body coming alive as Moonjo’s words wash over him.

My own, he’d said. My own.

“Moonjo, jagi, fuck,” Jongwoo hisses, his voice high and wanton, and it only seems to spur the man fucking him onward. Moonjo’s thrusts become erratic and precise, his teeth sink into Jongwoo’s shoulder and surely draw blood, and his hand tightens and loosens on his neck, never letting Jongwoo get used to the sensation.

When Jongwoo comes, it’s entirely untouched.

Moonjo fucks him through his orgasm, his voice a murmur of praise and endearments, and it does nothing at all to help how oversensitive and frazzled Jongwoo feels. His cock twitches and spills against the sheets, adding to the mess beneath them, but he can’t be bothered to be too pissed about the mess when he feels so high and so good. Jongwoo’s gasps and his moans are muffled by his arm, but he knows Moonjo can hear him; he’s still folded over him, front to back, grinding into him and rolling his hips, giving Jongwoo a little bit of hell as he chases his own orgasm.

“Jagi,” Jongwoo groans, biting his lip as he pushes back against Moonjo’s thrusts, meeting him halfway despite how he’s so sensitive he feels like he’ll break down any moment. “Jagi, jagi,” he chants, emboldened by Moonjo’s guttural moan, and when Jongwoo arches his lower back and thrusts back roughly, Moonjo hisses and grips his hip so hard that he knows there’ll be bruises come tomorrow.

“Jongwoo,” Moonjo sighs, his hips stuttering. “My own.”

“Yes, yes,” Jongwoo stumbles on his words, nodding erratically as he buries his face into the bed.

With Jongwoo’s neck exposed as it is, Moonjo doesn’t hesitate to lean forward and bite into his skin, licking and sucking at the nape of his neck as his hips falter the closer his orgasm gets. “Jagiya,” he moans, and then he’s spilling inside of Jongwoo, his thrusts messy and sharp as he comes—and it’s so good, after that: the gentle roll of Moonjo’s hips and the muted squelch of his come inside of him.

The noise goes straight to Jongwoo’s dick. It’s a terrible thing, the immediate need and desire that swells within him, but instead of provoking Moonjo further, all he does is lazily reach behind him, his hand searching for a head of hair over his shoulder.

When Moonjo’s mouth presses to the backs of his fingers, Jongwoo cannot tell whether or not he hates or loves the feeling it gives him.

“Stay,” Jongwoo says, quiet and uncertain, and it must be evident in his voice, because behind him, Moonjo stills. He’s quick to amend his words, hoping beyond reason that his initial, deeper meaning to the word becomes lost with his revision. “Stay… like this, for a while.”

Moonjo hums, his body relaxing, and Jongwoo decides that he hates it.

“Alright, jagiya,” he murmurs, kissing at his fingers again before mouthing at the teeth marks and bruises that adorn his neck. “Anything you want.”

*

Later, when Jongwoo slowly wakes, he doesn’t expect Moonjo to still be lying beside him.

At first, he thinks it a dream—but there is no haze clouding his vision, nor is there a sense of unease so thick in his gut that he would rather vomit up than keep inside. No, he feels normal, like this—warm and sated and sore, not quite unlike how he’d felt at the hospital all those months ago. Here, pressed against Moonjo’s side and listening to the even sound of his breathing, Jongwoo feels like he belongs, like this is another ‘something’ he’s been waiting to feel for a long, long time.

The thought startles him. Jongwoo isn’t sure what to do, what to feel, so when Moonjo shifts and when he feels his eyes on him, he doesn’t move at all. What is he to say? To do? He swallows against the lump in his throat and opts to wait for Moonjo to speak—except, the thing is, Moonjo’s never been too good at social cues.

Moonjo doesn’t speak. It seems to Jongwoo like he barely moves at all, and it only reminds him of earlier, of how Moonjo hadn’t lifted a finger to touch him until Jongwoo seemed half mad at him and the world around them. It’s exactly how he feels now, except this time, when Jongwoo speaks, he sounds smaller and more fragile than he’d ever like to sound.

“What now?”

Moonjo hums, a slow, low noise that has Jongwoo on edge. “I would like to stay.”

Jongwoo’s mind stutters to an abrupt halt. He wasn’t expecting what he’d been hoping for—but regardless… he should say no, shouldn’t he? Jongwoo thinks that he should definitely say no, that he should scream it out the window and carve it into Moonjo’s skin deep enough to see bone. He should take the bracelet off his wrist and shove it down Moonjo’s throat and watch him choke on the teeth the man himself had extracted. He should chalk all this up as some strange, realistic dream despite still feeling every touch and kiss and press of Moonjo against him, much like a brand.

If he focused hard enough, he could still feel Moonjo’s come inside him. If he focused hard enough, he could still feel Moonjo’s teeth breaking the skin on his shoulder and the back of his neck.

Jongwoo should say no, but what comes out is a harsh and bitter, “you think I’d let you leave?”

Moonjo’s laugh is sudden and loud, and Jongwoo cannot help but think that there’s a softer edge to it. If he craned his neck and peered up at Moonjo, would he see that softness reflected as fondness in his expression? Would Jongwoo see the same expression he had seen in the hospital alongside a smile, like nothing else matters?

It’s a temptation he acts on, but he doesn’t get the chance to find out.

Moonjo’s hand cups the back of his head, pulling Jongwoo closer until he’s able to press his cheek to the top of Jongwoo’s head. He breathes Jongwoo in, marveling in his natural scent that’s now taken on a hint of his own. Here, like this, with Jongwoo pressed into his side, Moonjo feels elated; warm and sated and content.

This is something he’s been waiting to feel for a long, long time.

“That sort of thing goes both ways, you know?”