Red string AU; SuBaekTao
~820 words

FATE? Written boldly and underlined.

The word mocked him.

He never wanted to care, but it was hard not to when students YOUNGER than him already sported characters or letters over their heart.

Soul mates didn't play by seniority of age, though.

When the bell rang for lunch, Joonmyun ripped the page from his notebook, crumpled it into a tight, tiny ball, and tossed it into the trash bin from his desk. It missed, but he'd already dropped his head to his folded arms.

His chest ached.

Baekhyun chattered the entire walk with his best friend Chanyeol, who dashed ahead and around to accentuate his replies.

School closed early due to local holiday, so they were going to the Parks' cafe for lunch.

Mid-sentence, Baekhyun lurched to a stop. His hand flew to his chest; it felt tight. It hurt to swallow.

"Baek?" Chanyeol crouched on the pavement before him. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," Baekhyun croaked. "Yeah, it just. . . It just hurt really bad, suddenly."

"Maybe we should go to the doctor."

"I'm fine! It's already passed." He dropped his hand to clutch the strap of his backpack and forced a smile. "It was probably just me talking too fast." But it still hurt, almost like a bee sting, but more like a dozen at once.

Chanyeol frowned, still concerned, and didn't sprint ahead when they started walking again like he usually did for Baekhyun to catch up to, staying at his heel like a worried puppy.

"This is ridiculous. . ." Baekhyun muttered. He stopped, tucked his chin to his neck, and pulled the collar of his T-shirt from his chest, just to make sure there were no bees.

No bees.

No insects.

Just stark characters stacked one atop the other.


Chanyeol stared when his friend went rigid. Peering over Baekhyun's hand, he hummed "Why are there two?"

Zitao's shoulders smacked against the padded floor with a sticky FWUMP. He stretched out his legs and laid on his back for a few breaths, picking at his sweaty shirt to cool off.

"Keep your feet under you next time." His opponent, an older Korean boy, idly spun the wushu stick between his fingers and offered his other hand. "Good match, though."

"Thanks. You t-?!" He pitched forward with a sharp gasp. His ribs felt like they were on fire; he pressed a palm into his sternum, trying to alleviate the unexpected pain.

Minseok dropped to a crouch. "Are you alright? I didn't think I hit you that hard!"

"You didn't," Zitao groaned. "It just. . ." Burned. Why did his chest burn?

He shivered while Minseok fretted, torn between getting the instructor and carrying Zitao to the locker rooms to call the nurse, but the pain gradually faded to a dull ache.

The instructor didn't notice a thing, too busy demonstrating proper block techniques for a couple of struggling students.

"I think it's stopped."

"Can you stand?" Minseok got to his feet and held out his hand.

When Zitao grasped it, the Korean boy merely closed his fingers around his hand and held it rather than pulling him up. Looking up at him, Zitao noticed Minseok's attention on his shirt. It hung loose in front but stuck to the back; glancing down at himself, Zitao could see clear down his shirt, but rather than being self-conscious, he flushed red.

On his left pec, just over his heart, read unfamiliar characters that had not been there when he changed for practice.


"Kim Joonmyun. Byun Baekhyun," Minseok read.

Joonmyun flinched in his seat with a sharp hiss. Other students looked at him curiously over their lunches for a moment, then returned to their animated conversations.

He hadn't eaten anything, having not had much of an appetite for a while, so he didn't know why it felt like heartburn. Wasn't he too young to have heartburn, anyway?

"Are you alright? Do you need to see the nurse?"

He nodded, sucking his bottom lip between his teeth, but waved off the concerned hands ready to help him.

This couldn't possibly be heart burn unless it was more literal than Joonmyun knew.

The nurses' office is on a different floor from the classroom. Joonmyun stumbled to the nearest bathroom. It was deserted; he locked the door and cupped his hands beneath the faucet to splash cold water on his face.

It just made his face wet; he didn't feel any better.

It was as if his ribs were kindling.

Nothing sounded ridiculous at the moment, so Joonmyun draped his blazer over across the countertop and unbuttoned his shirt with one hand, wrenching the knot of his tie down with the other.

The burn went away when he dropped his tie and held his shirt open like Clark Kent undressing to his Superman suit. Cool air soothed the seared characters over his heart.

Joonmyun read the reflected characters aloud, slowly.

黃子韜 "...Huang Zitao."

변백현 "...Byun Baekhyun."

Two names on the chests of three boys.


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