Pairing: Heechul / Zhou Mi
Warnings: angst, psychological issues, sex
Heechul discovers that it’s easy to travel with Zhou Mi: he’s the most agreeable of companions; his chatter fills in the blanks in the conversation that Heechul now finds himself unable to animate but he also knows how to be silent and, just, here.
They land at the tiny airport shortly after noon and the heat makes Heechul’s teeshirt cling to his back. His wounds hurt, he’s cranky, the plane ride made him sick, yet Zhou Mi keeps smiling and takes care of calling a cab.
Their hotel is a big, graceless parallelepiped dropped in front of a beach. Their room smells of cold tobacco but you can see the waves. Zhou Mi unpacks their bags while Heechul lies down and watches the sea. He’s got a headache.
“Do you want to go out for a swim?” Zhou Mi offers, holding out a pair of swim trunks, flip-flops, a beach towel and his endless grin. Heechul props himself up on his elbows and nods.
Outside the wind is raging and a million tiny grains of sand scratches their skins; Zhou Mi laughs and rushes into the water. Heechul wraps himself in his towel and watches him get engulfed then released by the waves. He realizes he’s smiling.
Afterwards Zhou Mi insists that they go to the spa and get a massage. Heechul undresses under his towel and hurries to the massage table. It does feel good, though, and leaves him relaxed enough for a game of pool, at which they both fail.
Dinner is pleasant, if a bit silent. Zhou Mi is tired by the long day they just had and Heechul doesn’t say much anymore anyway. They have crab; it’s a hassle to break the shell before you get to the flesh underneath.
Zhou Mi suggests they have a walk afterwards. Even though it’s dark, the air is still hot and feels damp when you breathe. They walk past tiny shops with the usual gadgets, kites and souvenirs and ridiculous hats. Zhou Mi goes inside one to buy a bottle of ice tea and Heechul waits for him outside.
They walk back in silence, only disrupted by the beep of the keycard in its slot. Heechul lets Zhou Mi have the bathroom first; he watches him pick his nightclothes in his suitcase before Zhou Mi walks to him and drops a tiny package in his lap.
It’s a Hello Kitty phone charm. The infamous white kitten is wearing a Hawaiian outfit, complete with the grass skirt, a flower instead of her usual bow. Again, Heechul smiles despite himself.
“Thanks,” he calls out to the closed bathroom door.
When it’s his turn to take a shower, Heechul takes his clothes off with his back to the mirror. He does catch a glimpse of himself, though, and the sight makes him want to empty his stomach in the toilet bowl.
His hair is still ridiculously short, and growing back in irregular patches. The side of his body that was unharmed is full of weird angles and bumps. Heechul doesn’t dare look at the scarred skin.
He looks sick, he thinks, eyes closed, as the water pours down on him. Hell, he is sick. Painfully aware that something is wrong with him and it’s not just the pull every time he opens his right hand. It’s something he can’t heal all by himself.
Heechul takes his time to put on his pajamas. He applies on some facial cream with the same devotion to his own face that he always had; that kind of routine keeps him sane, he thinks. He won’t go batshit as long as he keeps taking care of himself.
Zhou Mi is already in bed when he gets out and the ray of light when Heechul opens the door stripes his face with dirty neon. Zhou Mi blinks and smiles, and Heechul knows he’s watching him get in bed.
“Good night, hyung,” Zhou Mi whispers.
They fall into some sort of pattern: even if Zhou Mi keeps pretending that he’s leaving it all up to Heechul, he’ll offer to do something or another and Heechul, silently, follows. Because he’s dead-scared that Zhou Mi will walk out if he doesn’t.
At the beach he doesn’t even bother with undressing anymore, sitting by their bags with a large straw hat Zhou Mi bought him, sunglasses, and sunscreen lathered on his face. Heechul buries his fingers in the hot sand and watches Zhou Mi laugh in the waves, accept the shells he drops in Heechul’s hand.
Once, Zhou Mi proposes they have a walk in the forest that stretches behind the small town. It’s a slightly cooler day, but by the time they’ve climbed up to the temple that towers over the area, sweat is running in droplets down Heechul’s temples and he aches all over.
Zhou Mi inserts a coin in a telescope and tugs Heechul on the step. At first, Heechul sees nothing but a black circle. Then Zhou Mi climbs behind him and wraps his long arms around Heechul’s waist, and his voice in Heechul’s ear says:
“Don’t squint. Just look.”
Zhou Mi shows him their hotel, the tiny yellow parasols on the beach, the airport, the single shopping street of the town. All the while his right hand stays pressed against Heechul’s stomach while the other one moves the telescope. Heechul feels his own heart beating. It’s a strange feeling.
That night, he waits for Zhou Mi’s breath to turn sleepy and then he talks, he talks, he talks about the army and the names he was called, the names he thought he wouldn’t hear after that terrible year in middle school.
Heechul talks about the stupid exercises and running barefoot in the snow, and the goddam brainwashing. You get there, naïve and believing. The glorious nation needs you. The glorious nation wants you. You are its pride.
But at the end of the day you’re nothing but the local faggot and somehow, somehow, your portion of rice is always the smallest of the regiment.
The sergeant thought Heechul looked too girly. He made him dig a hole in dry earth at noon, shirtless, and then fill it back. By the time he was done, Heechul’s skin was red and so burnt that in some places there were blisters, matching the ones on his hands.
Heechul didn’t tell his family, but he expected other people, friends, to understand. Once, he called Yunho and he was in tears before he could get three words out. Heechul hit a thick wall of incomprehension. Hankyung – maybe Hankyung got it. But he wasn’t there, and even if he had been he couldn’t have done anything.
Heechul would have liked to say it all but his voice cracks before he can get to the wounds and how they’re so fucking painful, and so fucking unrewarding; in a flurry of bedcovers Zhou Mi is out of his own bed and into Heechul’s.
“It’s okay,” he says, “it’s okay.” He holds Heechul against him and Heechul lets him; “it’s okay,” Zhou Mi repeats. “It’s over.”
Zhou Mi’s long fingers pet Heechul’s short hair and his hands cradle him close, and Heechul pretends he’s not crying when really his tears are soaking through Zhou Mi’s shirt.
On the next morning Zhou Mi is his usual cheerful self, blabbering as he opens the curtains and crawls underneath his bed to retrieve his sunglasses and tugs on Heechul’s hand to drag him along.
“I thought we could go visit the aquarium, today. What do you think, hyung?”
Heechul doesn’t really have an opinion, but he follows Zhou Mi around like he did on every other day, trusting him with the formalities while he stays in the shade, hidden behind his sunglasses.
He finds that he likes the aquarium, though. There aren’t a lot of visitors in the morning and he and Zhou Mi are alone when they walk along glass walls. It’s an almost silent world, bathed in bluish lights and moving shadows.
Zhou Mi stays at his side even when Heechul spends a long moment watching the manta rays gliding effortlessly in the water, eyes trained on their ghostly shapes. So immersed he barely feels Zhou Mi’s fingers on his hip.
Heechul then sits in front of the dolphins’ pool, but this isn’t for him – he knows Zhou Mi probably likes them, and he also knows he wouldn’t have asked. So they stay for the ridiculous show with loops and balloons and Heechul laughs a bit when Zhou Mi, beaming with pride, gets to feed fish to the sea lions.
Zhou Mi hands Heechul a cup of milkshake with a straw, and a keychain – a little manta ray. The paper cup is damp in his palm, the keychain weighs nothing at all.
Zhou Mi pulls him behinds a pillar.
“What-” Heechul starts saying, but Zhou Mi kisses his cheek just at the corner of his mouth.
“Happy first date, hyung,” he murmurs happily.
They go back to the hotel and during the bus ride Heechul sips on his milkshake, now too warm. The taste is indescribable, something sugary, not exactly Heechul’s favorite, but sweetness remains branded on his tongue for a long time afterwards.
The wind is harsher than usual and they’ve been told that rain was expected this afternoon, yet Zhou Mi is diving in the waves, apparently uncaring or unbothered by the water slapping his face repeatedly. Heechul’s heart skips a beat each time he disappears under a wave.
“Come back,” he yells, but under the wind his voice is nothing.
Heechul stands up from his crouching position on unsteady legs and is immediately assaulted by scratching sand. His towel drapes itself across his body, flapping wildly when Heechul takes a step, then two, towards the ocean.
Zhou Mi’s expression is one of happiness, surprised happiness, and his eyes look huge.
“Hyung!” he says breathlessly. “You’re coming to swim?”
“Come back,” Heechul answers. “Just- come back.”
Zhou Mi stares at him for a moment, then takes wide purposeful strides towards him as the water laps at his legs.
“Come back,” Heechul repeats, “I don’t want you to-”
“Hyung,” Zhou Mi says when he’s so close to Heechul he can see each droplet of water falling from his eyelashes.
And then there are wet hands around Heechul’s chin and they’re tilting his face up so Zhou Mi can kiss his mouth, deep enough that Heechul thinks he swallows salty water, that he can hear soft suckling noises when Zhou Mi pulls back to tenderly brush their mouths together.
“Come swim with me, hyung,” Zhou Mi demands. Heechul realizes he can’t escape because Zhou Mi wrapped his arms tightly around him and is pulling him forward, towards him and the ocean. Heechul’s clothes are wet, heavy, dragging him down.
Zhou Mi pulls at his hand until Heechul is waist-deep into the water, and then Zhou Mi wraps himself back around him and breathes words of comfort and reassurance in his ear until Heechul isn’t so scared anymore and it starts to feel good.
Heechul is pushed in the shower cubicle with his clothes still on but quickly enough Zhou Mi is tugging them off while his mouth is busy licking and kissing every square centimeter of Heechul’s neck.
There’s a pause when Zhou Mi’s hands grab at his teeshirt, so wet it’s transparent and Heechul’s nipples are peeking through. Zhou Mi kisses him again then, tenderly, and his tongue is very soft, and his hands lift the teeshirt up and over Heechul’s head.
Warm water hammering down on their heads and Zhou Mi’s thigh slips in between Heechul’s; one of his hand adjusts Heechul’s leg on his hip and the other keeps Heechul’s chin angled for a kiss that’s wet and messy, just like them, just as eager.
Heechul feels the sand leaving his skin and slipping down the drain in brownish rivulets, feels the salt disappearing, feels Zhou Mi hard and hot and here, rubbing against him, his fingers pressing on Heechul’s wet skin.
His nails dig into Heechul’s thigh as he hitches it up higher on his hip, and Zhou Mi sharply bites his shoulder – and that’s what undoes Heechul in the end. He comes with a shrill cry that bounces on the tiled shower walls as semen spurts out of his cock and onto Zhou Mi’s.
They whimper in unison, Zhou Mi still hard and Heechul too sensitive, and he’s got half-in-mind to wrap his hand around Zhou Mi’s cock and jerk him off but his hand is batted away and instead warm water washes away semen and sand.
Then they stumble out of the shower and Heechul pushes Zhou Mi towards the bed; it’s as if his nerves were on fire, lit back from under layers of repression, and he just wants to fuck until his body falls asleep.
He sucks Zhou Mi off with Zhou Mi’s fingers in his hair and his come down his throat; later Zhou Mi fucks him with fingers coated in odorless body lotion, and even later it’s his cock in Heechul and it feels so good, after such a long time. When Heechul comes he says: “Zhou Mi” and the latter presses a kiss on his ear before cum fills him and it’s obscene and feels perfect.
While Heechul is regaining his breath, Zhou Mi gently pushes him to his stomach and was he less unraveled Heechul would tense and resist but as it is he can’t move a toe, so he lets Zhou Mi trail long fingers down his spine and lick softly at the scars.
“Do they hurt?”
Heechul thinks for a while, mind clouded by the sensation.
“…yes,” he admits after a while.
Zhou Mi grunts in disapproval and his mouth sucks softer kisses along the masqueraded skin until it proves to be some sort of sexual healing and Heechul feels nothing but the dirty pleasure of a slick tongue.
It induces a hitch in their smooth routine: they sleep in the mornings, go out on afternoon and when they’re back in the soft half-light of the hotel room, Zhou Mi leads and Heechul learns back everything he thought he knew by heart.
Zhou Mi’s quirks and the way he’s weird, and how he’s Chinese, too, and his long nose and skinny limbs, and the ineffable manner he has to hold his chin, and their resemblance, sometimes eerie and sometimes indiscernible.
He’s not one of Heechul’s best friends but he makes the list of his favorite people in the world. He’s caring, unconditionally so.
He talks, a lot.
They’ll be eating greasy noodles at some cheap street restaurant and suddenly Zhou Mi raises his head and aims a bright smile at Heechul.
“You’re like an onion, hyung,” he says. “I have to peel out you before I can eat you.”
And he does eat but he lets Heechul have his share, later, when they’re minuscule bodies writhing desperately to shine in a pitch-black cosmos – then Zhou Mi gets on his hands and knees and the curve of his spine is long like China’s Great Wall, so Heechul tiptoes his fingers along the length of it.
“Please,” Zhou Mi begs. “I really want you, hyung.”
And Heechul always gives when it’s asked nicely, so at first he fucks Zhou Mi from behind, and waits for him to come a first time while he’s still buried inside him, before he moves again slower inside, entranced by the sight, lewd, of his cock pushing into Zhou Mi’s tight body over, and over again, until he feels himself come.
Zhou Mi reaches for him, breathless, grinning, the kind of smile that seems like it’s bursting at the seams.
“Hyung,” he says. “So good, hyung.”
Heechul kisses him once, slips his tongue inside of Zhou Mi’s mouth.
When Heechul wakes up with Zhou Mi’s hair tickling his chest and it doesn’t feel strange, he figures it means their vacation is over.
He likes waking Zhou Mi up by combing his fingers through the brightly dyed hair – though the color is starting to fade with too much salt and sun.
“Seasoning,” he tells him. “Pack our bags, I’m taking you on a date.”
And Heechul does it the traditional way, like a gentleman: he starts by a walk in Namsan Park, on the evening when they’re back in Seoul. They walk up to the top of the hill, silence mingled with their loud breaths and shoulders bumping.
Once they’ve reached the plaza at the bottom of the tower, Heechul sees Zhou Mi eyeing longingly the locks that pepper the railing.
“We’ll have ours there,” he promises in Zhou Mi’s ear. “But not yet.”
He puts a coin in one of those telescopes for tourists, and shows Zhou Mi his brand new, good old kingdom, spread at their feet, a spiderweb of lights. And their hands are tangled tight in the pocket of Zhou Mi’s coat.