Himchan opened his eyes.
Fuck, he’d passed out on the stairs again. Groaning at his aching back and at the pain in his head, he heaved himself up on his legs and went up the last few steps to his apartment door. He fumbled for his keys and pulled them out of his pocket, growling when he kept missing the door lock because of shaky hands. Switching on the light of his apartment, he absentmindedly glanced at the clock.
He stood there trying to remember when he checked the time last and cringed. This time he’d slipped away for almost 3 hours.
It had started two weeks ago. Himchan hadn’t taken much notice, who would have? Spacing off wasn’t something to fuss about. Until they started to last longer little by little and Himchan had realized he was actually blacking out. And then once he’d dropped his entire tray of food during his part time job at the diner and crumpled down to the ground along with it. He woke up an hour later at a hospital, but the doctors said he was completely healthy. Himchan had passed it off as fatigue from work.
Trudging wearily to the calendar he grabbed the nearest pen and scribbled a 3 under today’s date and stared.
The incidents became frequent and he had to resign his part time job to prevent more broken dishes and salary cuts and drives to the hospital. At university no one really cared what he did and his friends assumed he was sleeping during the times. It was good in a way though, he didn’t like anybody butting in his business or thinking he had a problem. He didn’t tell his parents either; they’d badger him with questions.
1.20, 2.10, 2.40. His eyes ran across the rows of boxes on the calendar until he reached the box with the freshly written 3 in it. He spotted the word “appointment” in the next box.
Himchan had resorted to going to full body checkups and lengthy meetings with different doctors. Most, no, all of them were to no avail, leaving the doctors panicky and putting Himchan through multiple tests. Hell, he still didn’t know how he agreed for an MRI.
He wiped the dried blood on his elbow (probably from the damn stairs) and slumped down on the couch. Sometimes he wished he lived in a place with an elevator. Then it wouldn’t be so painful during his “slips”.
Himchan had come up with a name to his black outs. They were called slips, since he felt like he would slip away from time and his body and wake up again in what felt like a second that was gradually lengthening to the hours.
The cushions sunk as Himchan shifted into a more comfortable position. He might as well grab the last few hours of sleep before heading out to school again.
The plastic bags were digging painful streaks into his forearms as Himchan struggled with the large amount of groceries he was carrying, swearing at the blaring sun. His clothes were soaking in his own sweat and the smoke from the cars on the street was making it hard to breathe. In the midst of his frustration one of his bags swung into a complete stranger and Himchan had to stop to apologize at the person who accepted his hasty apology with a bright smile that worsened his mood for no particular reason. When Kim Himchan was unhappy everyone else had to be too.
Luckily he could cross the road without waiting; he wasn't up for watching the numbers at the other side slowly count down from 30, it could’ve made him even more disgruntled than he already was. He was halfway across the road when his entire body convulsed and the bags went crashing onto the ground and the last sound ringing in his ears was the shouting of stunned bystanders.
Himchan took in the all too familiar sight of a hospital ward. God, he was sick of the place. He sat up and saw his grocery bags at the corner of the room and sighed. Oh you're awake, a nurse approached his bed and busied with the equipment around him.
“Hi again.” Himchan knew he'd come to many times to the hospital when he could remember the nurses that worked in the department he was in.
“Hi again back to you. Same thing happened?”
“Yeah. Hey do you have the time?”
Himchan had slipped for 7 hours and 40 minutes. He was getting worried. The nurse spotted his grocery bags.
“Oh right, a man brought these here along with you. He had to leave first but here.” She fished out a folded sticky note.
“Thanks.” On it was a phone number and a ‘get well!’ and an overly cheerful smiley face for a person lying in a hospital bed. Himchan snorted.
Even though he was reluctant he still dialed the number for a quick thank you after he checked out of the hospital. A deep husky voice greeted him and he suddenly forgot why he was calling.
“Uh hi,” he looked down at the crumpled sticky note in his hand. “I’m calling to say thank you for bringing me to the hospital along with my groceries.”
There was a pause over the receiver. “Oh you got my note! How are you now?” Himchan liked how the deep voice rose with surprise and concern.
“Never better. Anyways sorry if I took your time. Thanks again Mr...?”
There was a breathy chuckle. “It's Yongguk. Himchan right? Do you mind if I prefer us meeting up for coffee or something instead of your thanks?”
“Um.” Himchan was slightly startled. “No, no I guess not.”
When Himchan ended the call with a goodbye, time and date written for coffee with Yongguk tomorrow, he was wondering how he was having a date now as a result of a simple thank you phone call. Wait, no, he was just going to thank the other over coffee. Yeah, that was it. He went to mark the calendar and noticed the too frequent numbers filling the once empty boxes of the days of the month. The slips were happening more and more often, the intervals between each one shortening to just a few days. Only two days had passed between today’s slip and the last. The fear was creeping up on Himchan again and he felt sick in the stomach.
He didn't know what Himchan liked so here’s a simple latte, Yongguk was saying with a small smile and pushing a steaming cup across the table. Himchan had arrived on time and recognized that deep voice immediately and found out that Yongguk was the person he'd accidentally hit with his grocery bags before he collapsed yesterday. That person with the annoyingly bright smile. Now to think about it, it wasn't so annoying anymore. He actually liked seeing that special gummy smile appear on Yongguk’s face once in a while. Himchan sipped his drink with a grin on his face as he listened to Yongguk go on about something, sometimes leaning forward and grabbing his wrist excitedly. Honestly, he had no idea what they were talking about and before he knew it, the entire afternoon had passed and they were standing up to leave.
Yongguk was a fairly interesting person, he thought as they both incredulously laughed when realizing they lived only one block away from each other. He had big dreams and hopes in life and liked challenges. Arriving under Himchan’s apartment, Yongguk, laughing at one of Himchan’s sarcastic remarks, politely refused when he was asked if he'd like to go in.
“Maybe some other time, I have an errand to run. See you around?” Himchan held out his hand, saying a humorous ‘It was nice meeting you, officially,’ and to his surprise, Yongguk ignored his outstretched hand and wrapped him in a quick hug, flashing him another bright smile before walking backwards, waving at him until he bumped into a pole. Sheepishly pulling at his collar, he gave him one last wave and turned the corner. Himchan couldn't help chuckling and swore under his breath. That damn smile. It was giving him disgustingly jittery butterflies in his stomach. This was not good.
The next day they met up again, for lunch, and Himchan found it hilarious that Yongguk was such a picky eater. He spotted an olive in Yongguk’s plate and laughed as the other stuck out his tongue in disgust and daintily pushed it to the side with the handle of his fork. Time seemed to fly when he was with Yongguk. The man gave him a sense of security and care that none of his friends could give him. He felt closer to him than people he had known for years in just a few hours.
“It’s not very nice, not very tidy either,” he warned as he tried to stack his opened textbooks neatly and brush a few empty snack wrappers off the table before Yongguk stepped in his apartment. It was hot again out and they decided to cool off at Himchan’s place.
“It looks fine to me,” Yongguk replied, looking around while lowering himself on the couch when Himchan yelped and snatched one of his boxers from under him just in time.
Yongguk busied himself with Himchan’s high school yearbook, chuckling at the younger version of him as Himchan went to fetch a few drinks from his fridge. He paused as he came across the calendar hung on his wall. Come to think of it, he hadn’t marked anything down since the day he fell down in the middle of the road. Which was also the first day he’d actually met Yongguk……so today was the third day. The breaks between each slip never lengthened, they only shrank. He frowned at the calendar as if expecting it to give him a logical answer. His thoughts were interrupted by Yongguk worriedly calling his name and he left his troubles for later.
They had their first kiss, or kisses, that day. Himchan had accidentally spilled his juice, the orangey liquid staining his pants and Yongguk had ran like lightning for some tissues. While he was dabbing the soaked material at his thighs, groaning and nose scrunched up in annoyance, a hand had caught him by surprise and he lifted his head to see Yongguk with the most solemn face he'd ever seen on him.
Himchan laughed at seeing this side of the other but Yongguk's expression didn't waver and he reached up to cup his face, leaning in with unsure eyes that seemed to ask for approval. Himchan, flustered at the sudden initiative, froze but regained his composure and connected their lips with a tilt of his head. It felt like the right thing to do.
Yongguk let out a breathy chuckle that sent pleasant shivers through him, his warm breath puffing on Himchan’s lips. ‘Am I going too fast?’
Those full lips right there were so tempting, and Himchan just sighed as he went in for another kiss.
Himchan held in his laughter as Yongguk stood in front of him, trying to work out what to say to him with relief, anger, and panic all etched on his face. The other resorted in waving his cellphone madly and motioning at Himchan who was hiding his grin under the blanket of the hospital bed.
“Would you like a hug?” Himchan held out his arms as Yongguk marched up to his bed and grabbed his phone.
“14 missed calls. Huh. And then you pick up and tell me you're at the hospital. I was worried SICK.”
“Sorry Guk.” Himchan reached for Yongguk’s hand. “I’m alright really."
“That I don't think so. This has been happening for a while now hasn't it? Last time and then now. Tell me what's going on.” Yongguk’s voice was firm but soft with worry, and Himchan sighed and proceeded to tell the other everything.
Yongguk had stayed silent the entire time although he was holding Himchan’s wrist in a deathly grip.
“Will you let go now, Guk, I’m done talking and my hands going to fall off.”
“How can you be so relaxed about this!?”
“It’s not like in going to die or anything.” Yongguk's mouth opened in retort but he shut it wisely. It was no use arguing on. Himchan knew from Yongguk’s eyes and creased brow he was having millions of thoughts running through his mind.
”I guess there’s only one way to deal with this.” Yongguk sighed and sat on the bed.
“Oh yeah?” Yongguk broke into a grin.
“And that way is me staying by your side forever.” He wrapped an arm around the other.
Himchan wrinkled his nose. “Guk. Really?”
“Yes really. You were the one that said you got better starting from the day we met. See, today’s seven days since your last slip. I must be your guardian angel.”
Himchan rolled his eyes. “There you go again. You being all cheesy. Hell, our entire relationship is cheesy.”
Yongguks eyebrow twitched. “How so?”
“Does love at first sight even exist, Guk, or do you want to tell your version of it again?”
Yongguk smiled sheepishly. “But it really happened.”
“So you go around crushing on everyone who hits you with a plastic bag and throws you a dirty look?”
“And you do to anyone who saves you after you faint like a girl?”
“Tch. To be honest your face made me madder then.”
“.....Ow that hurt.”
“I think it was your stupid smile.”
“You were in denial!”
Himchan snorted and Yongguk leaned over and pressed his mouth to his before he could make a snarky reply.
Himchan woke up to the sound of soft snoring and found his body heavily weighed on by something warm and moving. He squirmed up to hear a grunt followed by a disheveled Yongguk in a suit springing up to blink openmouthed at him.
“Wipe your drool, handsome. How'd you get in here?”
“Mmph... Hold on, let me recollect everything”. Yongguk buried his face in his hands, humming in thought.
Himchan waited patiently until the other snapped his head up.
“Door unlocked, found you here, not waking up, maybe slip? I waited,” Yongguk counted off his fingers. “And now,” he checked his watch with a groan, “you're late for school and I’m for work.”
“Lucky me. I don't have classes this morning.”
“What? But you called me yesterday to ask me if I could give you a ride.”
“Oh that? Well I was thinking on cooking my boyfriend a surprise breakfast is it too late now?” Himchan hopped out of bed, walking into the kitchen and smiling at the silence that hung in the air until a small ‘I guess I could take the morning off’ floated out from his room.
He was fishing out ingredients from the fridge when Yongguk shuffled out and wrapped his arms around his waist.
“This better be worth losing a few hours of income,” Yongguk muttered sleepily into his neck.
“It will, don't doubt my skills,” Himchan chided, pecking the other on the cheek. “Now go sit at the table like a good boy.” Yongguk complied.
“You know?” Himchan called over the sizzling of eggs and bacon, “My doctor called last night asking how I was and he kept saying how the whole thing was a miracle.” He laughed at the thought.
Yongguk took off his jacket and stared back with a grim face. “That's because you're something that science can't prove. Be careful they'll be kidnapping you and putting you through test tubes.
Himchan narrowed his eyes playfully. “You're not one of them are you?”
Yongguk wordlessly smirked and approached him, his hands behind his back, stopping when their chests barely touched and he breathed into his ear, “What if I am?”
And then Himchan was flung onto one sturdy shoulder and the only thing he could see was the back of Yongguk who was yelling something along the lines of ‘onward to the lab!’
“Yongguk!” Himchan screamed, half laughing, the other throwing him lightly on the bed and crawling on top with arms propped up at his sides.
“You called?” Yongguk kissed the tip of his nose, smiling amusedly.
“What about your breakfast?” Himchan stretched his neck and glanced nervously over Yongguk into the kitchen.
“What about it,” the other grinned, capturing Himchan’s lips with his and pushing him back down into the sheets. “I’d choose you over breakfast anytime.”
Himchan almost rolled his eyes but Yongguk had moved to his neck, mouthing his nape and he tried to push lightly against that broad chest despite loving how his boyfriend’s warm mouth kissed and licked at his skin.
“Stop struggling,” Yongguk murmured and he did, succumbing right when Yongguk bit at his collarbone, tracing it with his tongue and Himchan lost all thoughts with a small shuddered moan.
He buried his hands in Yongguk’s hair as the other unbuttoned his sleepwear, working his way down his chest and Himchan watched those elegant fingers flit around, each tiny contact with his skin making him arch for more.
By the time Yongguk was fumbling with his belt, the two of them were trembling with want, eyes hungry and lips slick, Himchan almost fully undressed, arms and legs plastered messily over the rumpled bedsheets.
“I think,” he suggested between gasps, “you should turn off the stove.” He could already smell the burnt odor of food in the air.
Yongguk opened his mouth, closed it with a second thought, and turned to exit the room, tripping over himself, pants half undone. A loud clang of pans and plates sounded, followed by a round of hacking coughs until Yongguk reemerged, hand waving in front of his wrinkled nose, disheveled by the smoke. Himchan chuckled at the sight and Yongguk scowled, kicking the rest of his pants off and giving the tent in Himchan’s boxers a revengeful squeeze. Himchan choked.
Himchan smoothed out the table cloth for the millionth time, hating himself for giggling like a teenage girl like he was and checking the time every five seconds. He wished the small hands of the clock would run faster though, were they always this slow?
His cellphone jingled with the notification of a text and he grappled at it, hands almost slipping in the midst.
‘5 more minutes till I’m off, can't wait,’ the text said, ending in another smiley face emotion that Yongguk was overly fond of sending. They always reminded Himchan of the first day they met. Just what this day was for.
Torn between his dignity and his urge to hug everything he saw at the moment, Himchan stared blankly until something inside of him burst open and then he was skipping around the room, the butterflies in his stomach more frantic than ever.
He was not all for the idea in the beginning when Yongguk had brought it up.
“Come on! It’s our one month anniversary!” Yongguk had cried incredulously. “To celebrate your luck on spending one month with the most perfect boyfriend in the world!”
“You're the lucky one, can you find anyone out there who can cope with you,” Himchan had scoffed. Celebrations like these just weren't his thing.
“What if I bring you to Daegu like you always wanted?”
Himchan, after much thinking, finally sighed a yes and Yongguk went bounding around the room shouting ‘VICTORY!’ at the top of his lungs despite Himchan throwing a pencil at him for him to tune down.
He didn't agree just because Yongguk was bringing him to his dream location for a vacation but because he knew his boyfriend had been anticipating the coming day with such excitement. Those seldom daydreams with a faint smile, those dried up post-it notes of restaurant numbers that fell from the walls of Yongguk’s workroom when Himchan vacuumed the floor, (Yongguk had left so many of his things in Himchan’s apartment that somehow he ended up moving in), and the crisp newly bought suit in their closet that Yongguk waved off as an outfit for a coming meeting.
Himchan switched on the TV, hoping that it would distract him before he burned holes in the clock with his eyes.
“......what looks like a robbery, just a few minutes ago, apparently the store owner had tried to fight back in a struggle, and an unlucky customer had been held hostage in a threatening manner. What happened during the conflict the police are still investigating, but the victim had been fatally shot, accidentally, according to the jewelry store owner.
Himchans mouth was dry as a man, trembling and wide eyed, who looked in the state of shock appeared on the screen.
“He was just coming to retrieve the ring he ordered,” the man sputtered, “all jolly and smiling the happy smile I've seen so much from the customers, only god knows why this had to happen, he should’ve just ran.....” The reporter cut back in. “The victim is currently at the hospital, receiving emergency care, meanwhile family will be notifi---”
It’s been 8 days now. I miss you terribly, just so you know. I paid your parents a visit yesterday. They’re really accepting people. But I guess they didn't know about your......plans yet. I told them though. Their reactions were calmer than I thought.
You heartless bastard, letting your mom cry like that. How could you leave her, leave your parents and relatives and friends. How could you leave me.
You should’ve just left the robbers alone you dimwit. What were you thinking, going against people with guns. Acting like the perfect gentleman you are. Where were your fucking BRAINS.
Shit there’s a hole in the page now. Your fault.
Remember you used to tell me all about the perfect wedding you would have. Guess it’s not gonna happen. Everything’s gone. Except for the ring. I still have it though. But I can't bear to see it.
The slips are back and they're getting worse. The first one was right when i heard your news. And then I had another one this morning. I think it was 5 hours. I haven't checked the calendar. Haven't marked anything either.
So I guess you were right. Maybe you are my guardian angel. A horrible one actually. Can't even protect yourself. Not to mention your fiancé. You know you didn't even have to ask, right. My answer would be yes, forever a yes.
I need a hug right now. Why aren't you here. Didn't you say you would give me an infinite supply of hugs. You liar.
Mom called just now, telling me to eat. But I don't feel like it. But I feel like I’m about to die. Of starvation I mean. I think I should. My cheeks are sinking in.
You're reading all this right? People keep looking weird at me when I tell them but I know you are.
Sorry about the ramble. My mind is a mess these days. I miss you. Sometimes the feeling comes like a wave and I feel like something’s suffocating me. It hurts. A lot. Inside.
I wish the slips would come to take away the feeling. Sometimes they do. So they’re both good and bad in some ways. I’ve already given up on finding a doctor.
I’m going to go now. It’s time I went back to school. I’ll take to you later okay? Bye. I love you. Remember that.
How is it up there? I’ve always wondered. Maybe one day I’ll get to see. Or maybe I’ll go down there because I’m not worthy.
Guk I’m scared. I slipped for 11 hours. My cheeks and hands hurt because the shards of my cup I was holding cut me. First it was breakfast and then a second after its dark outside. Is there really nothing I can do anymore? Am I going to get swallowed without any warning? Where are you when I need you?
Every time I wake up there are so many messages on the phone, so many people outside looking for me. I told them all I was fine. Was it the right thing to do? I don't want anyone knowing about me.
Sometimes I think everything would have been better off if I had declined your invitation to coffee that day. This wouldn't have happened. You had so many dreams, so many aspirations, so much in front of you. Why did we have to fall in love? Did fate plan this all, just for us to realize too late? If I had just known...
18 hours. I think I’m going mad.
I can barely do anything in the short hours before my next slip. The only thing I can is to hurry and write to you.
The slips are probably going to really take me. But then I’ll be able to see you again. We'll have the wedding you've always wanted. I promise.
I realized it's 50 days since I met you. What about a 50 day anniversary? I'm kidding.
23 hours already. Goodbye world. You've been kind to me.
I’m coming Yongguk. I love you, my guardian angel. Wait for me.