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one-shot; each new generation excels the last one, rated pg

長江後浪推前浪 (each new generation excels the last one)
originally for: 921227 @ Run and Gun
rating: PG
pairing: Xiumin/Lu Han
summary: Junmyeon concocts a spontaneous plan that results in Minseok (who has an affinity for the paranormal) traveling to China.
length: 6,975 words

長江後浪推前浪 (each new generation excels the last one)

Lu Heng never showed affection towards anyone
until a young man named Xiao Min
appeared in his life.

Kim Minseok first realized he was different from others when he was in elementary school.

“Come on, Minseokie.” His classmate tugged lightly on his arm before running ahead with a wide grin plastered on his face. As he made himself comfortable in a swing, the little boy gestured grandly towards the swing to his left. “Join me on the swings. Sit on this one.”

“Junmyeon, someone’s already sitting there.” Minseok frowned as he walked closer to the swing set.

The other boy blinked rapidly, carefree expression on his face quickly replaced by one of confusion. “What are you talking about? There’s no one sitting there.”

Minseok’s frown deepened as he stopped right in front of Junmyeon’s swing. “Stop joking around. Can’t you see her? Long, straight black hair and pastel pink dress --”

“You stop joking around.” After raising his eyebrows, Junmyeon rubbed his eyes. “There’s no one sitting next to me.” He laughed nervously while shaking his head. “You’re afraid of heights, aren’t you? Geez, just say so before making up weird things.”

Minseok opened and closed his mouth like a goldfish. “I’m not -- There’s really --” His stammering was cut off when the girl in the swing suddenly lifted her head up. Her bangs covered her eyes, but her mouth was visible enough to shoot a toothy grin in Minseok’s direction.

“So you can see me?”

Realization suddenly dawned on Minseok and the next thing he knew, he had fainted in the middle of his school’s playground.

(Junmyeon would tease him about it for years afterwards, even after finding out the reason why.)

‘Let me help you with that,’ Xiao Min had said with a smile during their first meeting,
(after helping Lu Heng pick up all his fallen papers).
Lu Heng had never been more thankful for being clumsy.

“Whoo, college. I bet you’ll have loads of fun in college, Minseokie.” Junmyeon throws a ball up in the air aimlessly as he lies supine on Minseok’s bed.

Minseok frowns before catching the ball with an outstretched hand. “I’m pretty sure I’m going to have no social life once university starts up in the spring,” he grumbles, placing the ball onto his desk. “I’ll be too busy trying to ignore the paranormal while attempting to focus on my studies.”

“Wow.” Junmyeon raises an eyebrow. “Being a pre-med student sounds like such a bore.” Minseok throws a pillow in reply before lying on the bed, letting out a sigh of exasperation while doing so. Letting out a bark of laughter, Junmyeon catches the projectile with ease. “You, my friend, need to relax.”

“And how do you propose I do that?” Minseok mumbles, question muffled by his mouth facedown in the comforter.

There is a silence before a wide grin spreads across the younger male’s face. “Take a gap year -- or, since that may prove to be too much of a break for you -- a gap semester. Visit someplace where no one knows who you are and relax a little.” Junmyeon suddenly gets up and proceeds to tug Minseok off the bed too. “Maybe it’ll help take your mind off things.”

There’s a pause in the conversation before the older male lets out a grunt as he allows himself to be pulled to his feet. “You’re insane. All that will do is make me a semester behind other people my age.”

“Life isn’t a competition, Minseokie.” Junmyeon rolls his eyes before crossing his arms. “Okay, well, maybe it is. A little. But I don’t see how this would put you behind other people.”

“I don’t see how it wouldn’t --”

“It would put you ahead, if anything,” Junmyeon interrupts quickly. “Think about it. You would be gaining worldly experience. Experience that not many, if any at all, will have had the opportunity to experience.”

Minseok stares at the other male as if he’s suddenly sprouted another head. “Junmyeon, what are you talking about?”

“I’m saying you should, um, go to China!” The younger male claps his hands together before nodding triumphantly and allowing a smile to curve upon his face. “Didn’t you take Chinese all four years of high school?”

The male in question furrows his brows. “Well, yes, but this and that are two totally different matters.”

“Minseokie,” Junmyeon sighs before rubbing his temples. “Do me a favor. No, do yourself a favor. Take a gap semester to travel China.”

“I’ll still see ghosts no matter where I go though,” Minseok grumbles as he sits back down on the bed.

“Don’t be such a pessimist,” Junmyeon states after pulling Minseok up again. “Maybe you’ll meet some friendly Chinese ghosts.”

Somehow or another, this was how Kim Minseok found himself on a plane, in the middle of March, on the way to China.

‘Oh, you’re a poet? How wondrous.’ Xiao Min nods his head slowly.
‘I think being able to cook is a better skill than being able to write.’
Xiao Min pauses, carefully pondering Lu Heng’s words. ‘Well,
I think that would depend on what your poems are about.’
Lu Heng has to bite the inside of his cheeks to prevent ‘You’ from escaping his lips.

Despite it having already been a few weeks, Minseok still found himself questioning what he was doing in the middle of nowhere in a foreign country where he could barely communicate.

“Try not to deviate from the group,” his tour guide comments in accented Korean, breaking his thoughts. Minseok mumbles an apology in Mandarin before bowing his head (apparently, his thought process had led him to halt his steps which, in turn, had caused him to fall behind the tour group). “You don’t want to be left behind here in the farmland. You wouldn’t be able to find your way back to the hotel. Then you would miss our bus that will go to Chengdu.” The tour guide snorts before briskly walking to the front of the tour group. “What was I saying before? Right, now, this area of Chongqing is famous for. . . .”

Minseok quickly tunes out the tour guide, opting instead to listen to some music reminiscent of home. He nonchalantly continues walking a small distance behind the rest of the group, catching bits and pieces of the tour guide’s facts in between the lyrics of G.O.D, as he observes his surroundings.

He’s got to hand it to Junmyeon; spending time in China was proving to be a nice change of pace -- even if the tour guide was a little uptight. Somehow, Minseok had also managed to “turn off” his sixth sense after his first day abroad. (Or, at the very least, he had stopped seeing a multitude of ghosts ever since landing in China.)

Minseok closes his eyes as he continues walking straight, following the tour group. After looping through a H.O.T album, Minseok stops walking when he realizes he can’t hear accented Korean anymore. The male slowly opens his eyes, widening them upon a sudden realization. He had managed to divert from the tour group. He hadn’t meant to, but nonetheless, it had happened.

Minseok attempts to call out for help, once in Korean and then twice in Mandarin. Hearing no response, he takes his cellphone out of his backpack and turns it on. He curses upon realizing that there is no signal, and stows the mobile device back in his pack. Unsure of what else to do, he decides it best to continue walking -- maybe he had not fallen very far behind the tour group.

Eventually, Minseok finds himself (still alone) in an ancient grouping of huts and dilapidated houses. “Hello?” he questions, but there is no reply other than the sound of his own echo. The sun is beginning to set, and Minseok soon realizes that he is going to need a place to stay for the night. He scrunches up his face before turning the doorknob of the nearest shelter and heading inside. His face quickly relaxes once it takes in the interior, however.

All the walls are covered, floor to ceiling, in Chinese characters. Minseok lets out a breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding. “What is this place?” he whispers in Mandarin before moving closer to a wall. Try as he might to read the characters, he can’t (he always had been the weakest at the writing portion of Chinese).

“It’s my home, but more than anything else, it’s also a place for me to tell stories.”

Minseok freezes. He could have sworn there had been no one else in the decrepit building when walking in. Timidly, he turns around only to see a light-haired youth with large eyes and a small face; the boy looked like a doll. Minseok feels his heart skip a beat when he sees eyes crinkling and lips curving upwards.

“Xiumin!” exclaims the chestnut-haired individual suddenly, glee evident in his features. He runs over and attempts to hug Minseok, but his arms only go through the Korean’s body.

Minseok freezes when realization dawns on him. “You’re not of this world.”

The ghost pauses before retracting his arms. “You’re not Xiumin,” the ghost echoes quietly before releasing a sigh, shoulders slumping in the process.

“And here I thought my sixth sense had finally disappeared.” Minseok frowns while crossing his arms, staring intently at the translucent being before him.

“And here I thought my dearest friend had finally returned to me,” the ghost replies with a sad smile.

The two stay locked in a silent standstill for a few minutes after that. At last, Minseok adjusts one of his backpack straps, salutes the ghost, and steps slowly to the side. “Well, since this place is clearly occupied, I’ll be leaving -- ”

The ghost’s eyes widen considerably at this. “No, wait!” he interrupts. “Please, stay!” Again, he tries to grab a hold of Minseok’s arm, but his fingers wrap around nothing and go right through what he wanted to grasp. Noticing this, the ghost quickly retracts his hands once again.

Minseok doesn’t notice the hold attempt, but does end up halting at the door. He turns around and quirks an eyebrow at the youthful ghost, who is now standing still while biting his lower lip. “You want me to stay?”

“It’s been lonely ever since I’ve ‘woken up’ a little while ago. There don’t seem to be a lot of people who come by here anymore.” A wry grin presents itself on the youth’s face. “As a writer, that’s unacceptable. I need people to tell my stories to.”

Minseok tilts his head slightly to the left. “Writer? Stories?”

“Ah, that’s a story in and of itself. Care to listen to the tale?” The ghost smiled before introducing himself to be named Lu Han, who -- when alive -- was an author that had been living large, which was pretty surprising considering his line of work and the time period of which he had been living in. “This area, now in ruins, used to be a bustling street full of family businesses and small houses. Despite my accumulated wealth, I chose to live here because of how lively it was.” Lu Han smiles fondly at this statement. “And that was how I came to meet Xiumin.”

“Xiumin.” Minseok lets the strange name roll off his tongue. “You called me that earlier.”

Lu Han furrowed his brows. “Yes, you resemble my dear friend quite a bit.” He visibly relaxed before leaning his head back, eyes closed in content. “You both have round cheeks and cute teeth. Soft eyes and charismatic eyebrows. Even your tone of voice is similar.”

“Maybe I was Xiumin in a past life.” Minseok shrugs nonchalantly.

Lu Han opens his eyes and gazes seriously at Minseok. “Maybe.”

A minute passes like this until Minseok coughs, feeling uncomfortable since Lu Han’s eyes seemed to cause his heart to beat too quickly for his liking. “Um, so, Xiumin -- ”

Lu Han blinks. “Right, my dear friend. Well, you could call it something like love at first sight.”

Minseok choked on his saliva. “Wh-what?”

“Love?” Lu Han rolls his eyes. “Oh, is same-sex love frowned upon in this time period too?”

Minseok shakes his head fervently. “No! Well, not always! I mean, there will always be those who are close-minded -- I mean, it’s not that -- I’m just surprised that gay people existed in ancient China -- I have two gay friends named Junmyeon and -- Okay, I’ll close my mouth now.”

Lu Han smirks as he watches Minseok grow increasingly flustered. “Gay? Is that what they call it?”

“I’m shutting up.” Minseok buries his face in his hands.

Lu Han laughs hysterically in response. After calming down a bit, he wipes an imaginary tear away as he attempts to pat the other male’s shoulder. “You’re pretty adorable, Baozi.”

“Did you just call me adorable -- no, wait, did you just call me a bun? My name is Minseok, and I think I told you that already.” Minseok puffs out his cheeks before raising an eyebrow.

“You did. It’s just -- your cheeks scream ‘bun.’” Lu Han nods affirmatively as he laughs again, this time with more control.

“Did Xiumin’s cheeks scream ‘bun’ too?” Minseok isn’t sure why he felt the urge to ask that question, but he regrets it as soon as it leaves his mouth, for Lu Han’s face suddenly seems much more downcast.

“Actually, I didn’t give him any food-related nicknames. I preferred to simply call him by name. His family did own a restaurant though.” Lu Han’s lips form a pout. “Anyway, what was I saying before we started debating your semblance to steamed buns?”

Minseok scratches the back of his head. “Um, about your experience with love at first sight --”

“Ah, yes!” Lu Han suddenly clasped his hands together. “Long story short, I bumped into him in the neighborhood. Befriended him. Fell in love with him. Wrote stories about him, about us. Everything on these walls” --at this, the ghost gestures to the Chinese calligraphy surrounding them-- “is a part of one of my stories. This whole house is an epic, a tale of lovers that could never be.” With misty eyes, Lu Han strokes the calligraphy of the wall nearest to him.

Minseok stands a little straighter. He slowly treads to one wall and attempts to read the Chinese writing. “I’m not Chinese,” is his only verbal response after long seconds of careful studying. “I’ve been studying Mandarin, so I can communicate a bit, but I can’t read or write at all.”

Lu Han curves one end of his lips up, allowing a half-smile to take shape on his face. “That makes sense; I was wondering why your Mandarin wasn’t something that seemed to flow easily off your tongue.” His half-smile stays as he stares at his hands. “Xiumin was half-Chinese himself, not full.”

Another silence settles between them until Minseok clears his throat to dissipate it. “So, were you and Xiumin,” his voice trails off as he clears his throat again.

“Were we lovers?” Lu Han finishes the question. “No, we weren’t. I may have loved him, but he never loved me -- or at least, he never loved me the way I loved him. He ended up marrying another, and I took on a wife soon after.”

“You had a wife?” Minseok asks, bewilderment etched onto his features.

Lu Han only nods. “She was a lovely lady, but we stopped getting along after our first child. I suppose it was because I never fell head over heels for her.”

An awkward tension seems to fill the room after that. Furrowing his brows, Minseok decides it would be best to change the subject. He gestures to the darkness outside a window before unzipping his backpack. “So, um, it’s rather late. I know you don’t necessarily need sleep to function, but I was hoping to rest a bit. I hope that’s alright. I’ve got a long day ahead of myself tomorrow. I got separated from my tour group, you see.”

Lu Han nods slowly as he observes the Korean unpacking a sleeping bag. “I’ll be here when you wake up. I’ll try and help you find this tour group of yours.”

Minseok isn’t sure why, but he goes to sleep that night more easily than he has in years.

The following morning, Lu Han and Minseok go around asking ghosts and villagers (respectively) about whether or not a large group of Koreans had passed by and in which direction they had been headed.

(Minseok isn’t sure why, but his sixth sense has faded quite a bit since landing in China -- it puzzles him greatly as to why he’s able to view Lu Han, but no one else.

He doesn’t question it much more than that though.)

It takes them several hours, but eventually they arrive at the outskirts of the city. Minseok takes a deep breath at the appearance of tall buildings and bustling roads. “I think I can find my way back to the hotel we were supposed to meet up at now -- Lu Han?”

The ghost boy’s jaw hangs agape as he absorbs all the sights and sounds with wide eyes.

“Lu Han?” Minseok repeats.

Lu Han finally seems to snap out of it, face turning gradually in the other male’s direction. “This is Chongqing?”

Minseok’s eyebrows raise before he laughs softly. “Right, I forgot. You’ve been dead for hundreds of years. Um, yes, we’re still in Chongqing. Times have changed.”

“I’ll say,” the Chinese ghost lets out a bark of laughter as he watches a traffic light change from red to green. “What is that?”

“A traffic light.” Noticing Lu Han’s look of confusion, Minseok continues his explanation. “It directs the outgoing and incoming flow of cars.”

“Cars?” Lu Han’s eyes seem to shine like a child’s as he poses another question. “You mean those fast-moving things with wheels?”

Minseok quickly nods his affirmation. “I’ve got a lot of explaining to do, it seems.” A look of delight flashed on Lu Han’s face in response.

“Baozi, I’ve got a proposition to make. May I travel with you?”


The night after Xiao Min’s mother passes away,
Lu Heng invites Xiao Min to his home for the night.
They drink, and drink, and drink.
Lu Heng thinks maybe that’s why, with alcohol coursing through his veins,
he presses a chaste kiss to the other’s lips.
(He isn’t sure whether or not to be thankful when Xiao Min says he doesn’t remember.)

After much persuasion, Minseok finds himself inside an airport on the way back to South Korea. In the end, he had relented and diverted completely from the tour -- choosing instead to return home with Lu Han by his side.

“I’ve always wanted to travel the world! Gain more worldly knowledge! Etcetera and so forth!” Lu Han beams as he trails behind Minseok in the airport.

“Well, at least I won’t have to book an extra ticket,” Minseok mumbles thoughtfully as he goes through airport security.

“This is so exciting,” Lu Han says later, when they’re waiting for the plane to take off. He’s sitting in the seat next to Minseok, since (as fate would have it) the seat was otherwise unoccupied. “I can’t believe humans can fly now.”

Minseok breaks out into a small grin as he watches Lu Han with fascination. “I’m amused that you’re so amused.”

(He retracts that statement later, however, when Lu Han screams the entire time the airplane initially takes off into the sky. He grits his teeth as he narrows his eyes at the ghost. “Shut up, shut up!”

Minseok doesn’t miss the stares he receives from other passengers, who probably think he is mentally unstable in some way.

He’s used to those kind of stares though.)

When they arrive in Korea, Junmyeon is at the airport to greet them. The smiling younger man waves frantically until Minseok is only a few feet away. “Hey, it’s been a while, Minseokie.”

“I’m home a bit earlier than expected,” Minseok replies curtly as his friend pats him soothingly on the back.

Junmyeon takes the older male’s suitcase as he looks around. “So where is this ghost buddy of yours that convinced you to come home after only a month or two abroad?”

“Baozi, can your friend here see ghosts too?” Lu Han chirps as he observes Junmyeon with a watchful eye.

“No, he can’t,” Minseok whispers in Mandarin. “He’s right behind you,” Minseok states louder, in Korean.

Junmyeon grins as he turns around, bowing ninety degrees before holding out a hand for a handshake. “Well, well, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Junmyeon. Thanks for looking out for Minseok when he got separated from his tour group.”

After Minseok quickly translates, Lu Han raises an eyebrow in the direction of Minseok. “Oh, so this is one of those gay friends of yours.” Minseok feels his cheeks flush while remembering his rambling during their first meeting. “Tell him that the pleasure is mine, and that I’d love to meet his boyfriend one day. I bet he’s a nice guy too.”

Minseok relays the message after adding in Lu Han’s name. Junmyeon only smiles sheepishly in response as he puts both hands in his jean pockets. “So Minseok told you about me. Hm, we could meet him now. He’s currently volunteering at a hospital.” Junmyeon’s eyes flicker quickly in Minseok’s direction before refocusing on where he thinks Lu Han is standing. “Would you like to go see him?”

Lu Han blinks. “What’s a hospital?”

“Hell on Earth,” is what Minseok wants to reply. Instead, he answers, “It’s a location with a lot of doctors. People who help the sick and injured.”

As Lu Han purses his lips, allowing the definition to sink into his brain, Minseok resists the urge to shiver. If there was one thing that Minseok hated above everything else, it was hospitals. The places were always swarming with ghosts. There were many an instance when he would simply curl up into a fetal position from the overwhelming amount of paranormal activity in the buildings (sometimes with Junmyeon looking on, sometimes with someone else, sometimes with no one nearby).

But maybe, maybe this time could be different. With a quick glance in his ghost friend’s direction, Minseok gulps as he gives Junmyeon a nod to signify it was alright to go to the hospital.

It wasn’t normal for a man to love another man,
not in the way Lu Heng had come to love Xiao Min.
Lu Heng repeated this to himself, almost like a mantra,
every time he found himself aching for more.

The smell is what causes his stomach to churn first. Hospitals always had a distinctive smell, one of rubbing alcohol and iron. Minseok feels goosebumps rise on his arms as Junmyeon and Lu Han walk effortlessly through the hospital hallways, he himself trailing haltingly behind.

“Lately, my boyfriend’s been busy helping out a special patient, so he’s always in Room 2004.” Junmyeon opens the door to a stairwell after his explanation. “He’s upstairs. Come on.”

Lu Han whistles nonchalantly as he walks up the stairs first, setting a quick pace that Junmyeon unknowingly follows. “Baozi, you’re lagging behind,” Lu Han shouts once the two of them are several steps ahead.

“I’ll catch up,” Minseok murmurs. He shifts his eyes after noticing an old woman withdrawn into a corner, long hair all over the first step of the stairs. He shifts his eyes again after accidentally making eye contact with a one-eyed toddler, whose forehead is covered in stitches. Nausea hits him like a powerful wave as he hastily runs up the stairs only to trip over a step and fall onto his knees. He bites his lower lip to prevent himself from screaming after noticing he had landed next to someone’s -- something’s -- leg. He freezes and feels a chill run through his bloodstream as the old lady from earlier cackles behind him.

Without warning, a slipper-clad foot kicks the leg away. Minseok turns his head and watches as Lu Han kneels down next to him. “Baozi? Are you okay?”

At this point, Junmyeon is still walking up the stairs. He quickens his pace and cups his mouth after reaching the door to level two of the hospital. “I’ll go ask someone for a glass of water upstairs. I’ll leave you in good hands, Minseokie.”

“He said I was in good hands with you.” Minseok laughs weakly after the door closes behind Junmyeon. Lu Han peers at him with worried eyes. “That could be debatable.”

“You know, I’ve come to ignore the creepier spirits over the years. Sometimes I forget others can’t handle them,” Lu Han retorts simply, standing up to brush invisible dust off of himself.

Minseok chuckles. “Most humans can’t see spirits at all, to be honest.” The two pause their conversation as a nurse passes by them on her way down. After assuring the nurse he was alright and watching her leave, the Korean male continued speaking, voice hushed. “Actually, I haven’t met anyone else yet who can.”

Lu Han hums before offering a hand. “Can you stand by yourself?”

Minseok nods but attempts to take the ghost’s hand anyway. He laughs wryly after his hand touches nothing but air. “I don’t really have a choice at the moment, do I?”

Lu Han clams up as his eyes flit back and forth between his own hand and that of Minseok’s.

They walk up the stairs in no rush. When they reach the door to level two, Minseok reaches down and wraps his hand around air -- where Lu Han’s hand would be if he were a physical, human being. “Today was the first time in a long while that I have seen ghosts other than you though. Before today, I stopped noticing ghosts when I was around you.”

Lu Han raises an eyebrow. “Really? That’s interesting. I wonder why that was.”

“I don’t know,” Minseok states before turning the doorknob with his free hand. “But thank you.”

Lu Han smiles warmly at him. “You’re welcome, Baozi. Now let’s go meet up with your friend. He’s probably worried about you after what happened back there.”

It was an accurate assumption to make. Junmyeon had immediately wrapped Minseok into a tight hug after the three met up again in the hall outside Room 2004, nagging him to drink a lot of water, eat more vitamins, and stop trying to act so darn stoic all the time. The nagging and hugging only stopped when a young man with prominent cheekbones and crinkled eyes stepped out of Room 2004. As he adjusted his scrubs, the male asked, “So is Minseok alright?”

Junmyeon takes the opportunity to wrap his right arm around the male’s shoulders. “He will be after finishing this bottle,” Junmyeon huffs, holding up a half-empty bottle of water.

“Junmyeon, I’m not dehydrated; I don’t need to suddenly drink so much water.” Minseok rolls his eyes as Lu Han snorts beside him. “And Jongdae, I’m fine. Sorry for worrying you.”

Jongdae lets out a soft sigh of relief. “I’m used to it. You and Junmyeon have caused me to get grey hairs already. And I’m not even in college yet.”

“So this is Junmyeon’s boyfriend?” Lu Han pipes up abruptly, as the two lovers begin bickering among themselves.

“Yeah. He wants to be a pre-med student. Like me.” Minseok grins as he quickly fills Jongdae in on why they visited.

“Oh, well, it’s nice to finally meet a ghost friend of Minseok’s.” Jongdae bows in Lu Han’s direction after noting how Minseok is holding out a hand as if it is in someone’s grasp. “Actually, I just got an idea. I hope your ghost friend won’t mind helping me out with it.”

Minseok tilts his head slightly to the side. “You want a ghost’s help? With what?”

Jongdae stares thoughtfully at the closed door to Room 2004. “Lately, I’ve been taking care of a coma patient. He’s this Chinese man about your age, Minseok, and I think he was going to study at Yonsei too.”

Minseok nods encouragingly. “Go on.”

“Anyway, I was thinking -- this might sound crazy, but -- maybe you and your ghost friend could go into the room and see if you could contact that guy’s spirit. Help him regain consciousness. Something like that.” Jongdae throws his hands in the air. “It’s a stretch.”

“It could work,” Lu Han states quietly after Minseok explains the situation to him. “Let’s do it. I’ve been feeling an odd aura from this room ever since we’ve gotten close.”

Minseok gulps down his concerns after hearing Lu Han’s response. After telling Jongdae that the two of them have agreed to go through with the plan, Minseok and Lu Han both put their hands on the door handle to Room 2004 together.

“On the count of three. One.”



With some effort, they open the heavy door and walk inside. There is a teal curtain shielding the patient’s bed from the rest of the room, but other than the beeping of the various monitors, there is nothing else significant about the room. “I don’t sense anything weird,” Minseok whispers.

Lu Han winces as he clutches his head suddenly. “Wait, Baozi --”

Alarmed, Minseok feels his hands shake as he watches Lu Han continue to grimace in pain. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m not sure, but I think you should open the curtain. I’m getting a headache because of whatever is behind it, I think.” Lu Han makes his way over to the lone armchair in the room and shakily sits down.

“A-Are you sure?” Minseok stutters, left hand fingering the frayed edges of the curtain.

Lu Han nods his consent, and with that, Minseok pushes the curtain to the side. His eyes widen into saucers at the sight of the patient.

“L-Lu Han,” he stammers out, face growing pale as he turns to face his ghost friend who’s become white as a sheet. “Lu Han, it’s you. You’re the patient in a coma.”

Lu Heng decides to approach Xiao Min with a poem one morning.
It’s one that compares his smile to the night sky,
his teeth to the stars in the heavens above.
He stalls when he comes across the other man
embracing a girl of petite stature and a lithe form.
(That night, Lu Heng burns the words detailing his infatuation,
as dark emotions overtake his heart and transform it into ashes.)

Lu Han and Minseok leave the hospital in silence after their discovery, ignoring the perplexed expressions that had been present on Junmyeon’s and Jongdae’s faces.

“So what does this mean?” Minseok asks finally, when they’re on a bus on the way back to Minseok’s officetel.

“I’m not sure.” Lu Han furrows his brows as he crosses his arms. “Reincarnation, maybe? My people have always believed in the theory of multiple lives. Maybe I’m supposed to be that Lu Han right now.”

Minseok closes his eyes as he ponders everything over. “How long have you been a ghost?”

“I haven’t been keeping track of time. If I had to estimate, I would say I first ‘woke up’ several months ago.” Lu Han uncrosses his arms to stroke a hand through his hair. “I’m not sure how being a ghost works, considering I’ve definitely been dead for much longer than that.”

“Maybe that Lu Han got into his car accident several months ago and that somehow triggered your appearance.” Minseok suddenly stills after realizing something that causes an uncomfortable ache to settle in his ribcage.

Lu Han stills as well, seeming to have noticed the same thing. He rests a translucent hand over Minseok’s and holds it there until they get off at a stop different than their original destination.

“Let’s go somewhere other than my home,” Minseok says in a rush, gesturing for the ghost to follow him into the famed COEX mall. “There’s a really nice aquarium here. I think you’ll like it.”

Lu Han smiles sadly before catching up to the Korean male. “What’s an aquarium?”

‘Lu heng,’ Xiao Min begins, pout slowly forming on his face. ‘You’ve been avoiding me.’
Lu Heng chooses not to answer, choosing instead to look anywhere but at Xiao Min himself;
he finds his fingernails are suddenly much more interesting than whatever the male in front of him wants to say.
‘‘I’m getting married the next time there’s a full moon, Lu Heng.
I’d really like it if you could be present at the ceremony.’

They spend the rest of the day exploring Seoul. After visiting the COEX aquarium, they head down to Myeongdong and window shop together. They head into a club and dance by themselves before ending the day at a low-key concert held in Hongdae.

(The entire time, they don’t mention anything about the other Lu Han, or Junmyeon, or Jongdae.)

“I really like this band,” Lu Han almost-shouts into Minseok’s ear, because the music is loud and almost drowns out their words

maybe you'll leave me farther away than this night
to a place where my voice can't reach
I can tell by just looking at your tossing and turning

Minseok smiles wistfully as he almost-shouts back. “I’m glad. They’re one of my favorites.”

when this night is over when this night is over
you'll fall into someone else's arms

“This song in particular is quite nice.” Lu Han looks fondly on at the band as they play and sing their hearts out on the stage. “What’s it about?”

you'll leave to a place
far away, to a place where my words of love can't reach

Minseok feels his heart speed up. It’s arrhythmia, (again, he thinks) but he’s used it now. It’s become a common occurrence around Lu Han. “I’ll tell you later. One day.”

“One day,” Lu Han echoes.

it's okay I'll let you go first, after this night is over

Minseok keeps his eyes closed until the last notes of the song fade out and the roar of the crowd takes over. When he opens them again, he doesn’t see Lu Han.

“You ass. Not even a ‘goodbye’ or a ‘see you later.’”

‘We’re leaving Chongqing.’
Lu Heng, somehow, had expected this. ‘Where are you going?’
‘Farther north. My wife and I hear that Peking is nice this time of year.’
I’ll miss you. Don’t leave Chongqing. Don’t leave me.
Lu Heng swallows his feelings and chokes out, ‘Good luck,’ while Xiao Min wraps him in a comforting embrace.
Xiao Min moves away in the spring, taking half of Lu Heng’s heart with him.

Jongdae calls him early the next morning, screaming in his ear about how his coma patient had finally woken up. (“It’s a miracle! It must have been thanks to you and your ghost friend!”)

Minseok makes all the appropriate comments and replies until Jongdae notices that the other male isn’t really paying attention. “Sorry, did I call you at a bad time?”

“Kind of,” Minseok responds frankly. “But it’s okay. Actually, I have a favor to ask of you now. You see, I took the semester off -- per Junmyeon’s suggestion -- but I still have quite a few weeks left until I start university in the fall semester. Can you help get me volunteer work at your hospital?”

‘You write very beautifully,’ comments a girl dressed in pale yellow.
(It reminds him of flowers; it reminds him of spring;
it reminds him of the man who holds the other half of his heart.)
‘My name is Xing Yi. It’s nice to meet you.’
He feels what could be affection bubbling in his chest.

For the most part, since he is still new, Minseok doesn’t get assigned to do much else other than secretarial work for the doctors and nurses. He assists patients with completing their forms, copies things for busy health professionals, files various documents into their proper folders, etc and so forth.

Minseok infers Junmyeon must have told Jongdae what had happened with Lu Han, because during the third week of him volunteering, Minseok receives his job assignment for the week accompanied by a look of pity on Jongdae’s face. “About this week’s assignment --”

“Jongdae, I’m fine. Really.” He’s not. Really. But there’s no need to worry the other male unnecessarily. “I’ve been assigned to Room 2004, haven’t I?”

“I’ll ask if I can switch with you --”

That would be great. “That’s not necessary.”

Jongdae throws him a look of understanding before patting him carefully on the shoulder.

With half of a heart, Lu Heng decides that
every ending is a new beginning.
‘I’m Lu Heng. Thank you.’

“Come in,” responds a melodic voice. Minseok feels the hairs on the back of his neck stand up on end as he stops knocking on the door to Room 2004. Carefully, he turns the door handle with his right hand and spots the back of a young man stretching. When the male turns around mid-stretch, hospital gown slipping at the neckline ever so slightly, a flash of skin is made visible. But it isn’t the reveal of neck and shoulder that has Minseok’s heart beating erratically. It’s the fact that Minseok is seeing a living, breathing version of the ghost that has been haunting his mind for the past few weeks.

“H-Hello,” Minseok stutters, cheeks flushing a warm shade of crimson. “My name is Kim Minseok, and I’ve been assigned to check up on you for today.”

The other man smiles widely as he runs a hand through his chestnut hair. “It’s nice to meet you. My name’s Xi Luhan.”

Lu Han. Xi Luhan. The subtle differences in the names alone are enough to make Minseok want to hit his head against the wall. “That’s a lovely name. You’re not from around here, are you?”

“Thank you.” Luhan smiles gratefully as he carefully pushes his IV tower closer to the bed so that he can sit down. “I’m named after my great-great-grandfather, and you’re right -- I’m from China.”

Minseok nods while checking the various monitors in the room, writing down the information he’s supposed to note. “It seems like you’re in good shape,” he states after finishing the check up. “I apologize if I was bothering you; I’ll be going now, so --”

“No, wait!” Luhan abruptly interrupts. “Please, stay!”

Minseok freezes, if only because the scene is so eerily familiar to what had played out in China a few months before. Had it only been months? Minseok gradually turns around to face the light-haired youth, careful not to reveal any emotion on his face. “Do you need something?”

“Well, maybe a carton of grape juice,” Luhan admits. Minseok takes a step closer to the door then. Alarmed, Luhan exclaims, “But mostly just human companionship. I don’t get to meet a lot of people my age here in the hospital, and you look like you’re around my age.”

Minseok tilts his head to the side before walking out of the room without a word. Just when Luhan resigns himself to the fact that he’s going to be left alone again, the Korean returns with a carton of juice in hand.

“Oh, Minseok --”

“They didn’t have grape, so I got you apple instead. I hope that’s alright.” Minseok almost drops the carton while passing it to Luhan. Their fingers accidentally brush, and the feeling of actual warmth makes every nerve in his body feel electrified from that one touch. His heart rate speeds up, and Minseok recognizes this feeling all too well.

Luhan grins as he stares at the juice carton in his hands. “Thanks. I actually prefer apple juice to grape anyway.” As he opens the small carton and takes a tentative sip, Luhan observes how Minseok sits stiffly at a distance from him. “So are you going to accompany me for the rest of the day?”

Minseok feels his cheeks heat up as Luhan smirks. “Well, you asked -- I’m your caretaker for the day so it’s my job --” Minseok puffs out his cheeks once before releasing a deep exhale. “I’ll try my best to accompany you. For the rest of the day.”

(For the rest of eternity.)

A/N1: Romantic Punch lyrics credited to gogoparty. Title credited to Wikipedia.
A/N2: Quan (chateaucartoon), thank you. Thank you so so so much. ♥
A/N3: Originally posted here.
Tags: fanfics, oneshots, pairing: xiumin/luhan
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