this is my first angsty one-shot, please be nice! neighbours!au, somewhat 5k words with major character death, mentions of drowning also. italics is flashback. huge issue to mention - do not operate your phone at any point for any reason under any circumstance while driving; if something were to happen, you never know who’s world you’ve robbed of all its’ sunshine.
Message from: Taehyung - received just now
Just finished with the doctor. Can I get a ride pretty please?
Your fingers danced across the screen the moment his text had come through, the message already read before you had even unlocked your phone.
I’ll pick you up in five.
Equally as quickly, he responded, a single sunny smiley face on the screen. You were already out the door, keys in hand and phone in the other, running down the steps of your house right next to his, the pair of houses you’d grown up in. You clambered into your car, hurriedly putting your seatbelt on, then you were dashing out of the driveway, branches and bushes lined head to toe in blossoming flowers dragging against the sides, the petals determined to shine despite the season not yet spring. With the radio barely murmuring anything at all, you drove directly to the hospital, more than familiar with the short route from your houses.
He stood with his thumb out like he was trying to hitchhike a ride, grinning ear to ear, and you couldn’t help but smile yourself, before he covered his mouth to cough, his shoulders jolting at the movement, yet he moved his hand back away the next moment, trying to appear like he really was fine, like he could really breathe.
Your lips pressed together in disapproval; he should have waited inside, where the air was easier to breathe, where someone could keep an eye on him, and your hand had reached to turn up the air-conditions to a higher speed and a slightly warmer temperature on it’s own, as you pulled up right next to where he stood, fingers shielding his eyes from the penetrating brightness of the sun.
“How did it go?” You asked sweetly as he climbed into the passenger side, already putting on a smile for you.
“The same it always does. I need to stop refusing treatment, blah blah blah.” He sighed, closing the door a little harsher than need be, before his elbow rested against the window, his fingers rubbing the bridge of his nose like he was already diving into deep thought.
You peered at him through the corner of your vision before you accelerated away, not convinced in the slightest. “Are you sure you’re alright?”
He hummed then, his smile a lot less convincing this time, and you focussed on driving both of you home for the moment.
“You know,” you tried to start again with a different tone, keeping your gaze straight ahead although you knew his had turned to look at you, “I found this super easy-looking recipe for nutella-filled pancakes. Wanna give it a try?”
His usual light-hearted self started to return, his lips parted in a grin while he retorted. “I’ll take care of all the nutella, don’t you worry about that.”
You let out a laugh, and it filled the air like music for a moment, Taehyung pausing turning up the radio for a moment. “You’ll get pimples if you eat that much chocolate, especially in one go, smartypants.”
He smirked just a little to himself. “Yes, mom.”
You quirked a single eyebrow at him, accepting the challenge. “You can have your nutella, after you eat a salad, and finish your calculus homework.”
He groaned, the lively mood starting to shift. “Can we please not do this now? I’m so hungry, and that jar of chocolate heaven has my name all over it.”
You nodded fairly, the playful feeling gone from the air. You weren’t going to get into it now, you didn’t want to take a single chance at spoiling his happy mood he tried to convince himself of. And while all you could really do was smile and drive him every other day to a new appointment where they told him the same news and tried to get him to take the same medication he always refused, you thought he would always get better; his brightness couldn’t be extinguished like this.
But, Taehyung wasn’t daft; he knew he wasn’t going to get better. He knew what would happen to him eventually, but he saw no sense in wasting the last unknown amount of time he had on this earth being miserable about it. He was a ray of sunshine, spreading happiness like air, and you could swear that daisies bloomed out of the dirt wherever he strode.
Yet, like all purely beautiful things allowed in this world, he had to end, his last days coming eminently sooner than he deserved.
You reached your hand across to his seat on his thigh, offering the most reassuring smile you could, but he only half-heartedly returned it, squeezing your hand for a brief moment before letting go and moving his hand far away from your reach.
The rest of the car ride was filled with a more uncomfortable type of silence, his head tilted slightly away from you, staring out the window at the same scenery he’d been surrounded in all his life, and you knew he didn’t want you to see him showing weakness, the low music from the radio completely covering the silence of the water in his eyes falling down his face.
“Tae?” You called out cautiously, exiting the side of your house, looking for a little tuft of golden hair dashing somewhere around in the garden, yet you saw nothing, and the silence that answered back placed a heavy weight on your lungs.
“Taehyung, where are you?” You wailed with more urgency, the prickles of anxiety tearing up your skin the more you looked and caught no sight of him. With a sickening feeling, you descended further into the yard, through the rows of colourful flowers that you were forbidden to pick, down towards the dam that seemed to be rippling more intensely than usual.
You already knew that the small golden hands moving in the water had to be him, his skin sinking deeper below the surface.
“Tae!” You screamed, watching his hand disappear underneath the water, the surface no longer churning with his struggles.
He couldn’t swim and neither could you, but before any other thought, you were surrounded by the water, moving your legs frantically in any direction you could to get to the surface. You’d seen this on television, you take a big breath and then you dive underneath the water, down to where you couldn’t breathe.
Before you could lose your nerve, or even possibly Taehyung, you took a breath so big it pained your lungs, before you deliberately let yourself sink, letting your clothes tug you down to the depths.
It was so dirty and dark, your eyes burned as they tried to adjust, and your mouth opened in panic at the space, your lungs trying to pull in more air on instinct before you could stop yourself. Through your watering eyes, you caught sight of him, and it didn’t matter that you couldn’t breathe anymore.
He was suspended in the water, his eyes shut, mouth ajar and completely deadly still.
You kicked and writhed your way towards him, grabbing him around the middle, his body effortlessly light and limp. Your own lungs were now long begging for fresh air, and you tried to kick your way back to the surface where the daylight poured in.
At last, your head rose, spitting out water and almost sobbing to yourself, keeping the boy pinned to you as close as possible, as if you could offer him any sort of safety and security. He wasn’t moving, he wasn’t struggling, or choking for air, and you lunged your way to the dam bank layered with mud.
You tried to breathe in the fresh air, your body convulsing as you coughed up more dirty water, all while trying to pull the boy up onto the muddy bank. He was so heavy now, too heavy for you to carry both his form and yourself, but there was no other option; with a momentous heave, you slumped his body against the dirt, digging your fingers into the mud to claw your own way out of the water.
He hadn’t spoken, coughed, or even moved. You scrambled to more secure ground, dragging him by his soaked shirt, before you turned him over and placed your ear against his chest.
Taehyung wasn’t breathing.
You thanked every entity you could name for your parents’ insistence of teaching you proper CPR, your hands already pushing him to lie on his side to clear whatever might be in his airways. Then you were gently pinching his nose shut as you tried to breathe life back into his body, his alarmingly cold lips making you that much more desperate to change his fate.
You locked your fingers together, compressing his chest as cautiously as you could, terrified you’d accidentally break one of his ribs, pressing over and over until you thought to give him another breath, repeating the process, each time becoming more and more distraught.
He coughed, finally, and you thought it was the best sound there ever was, the sound of life running back in him again, and you yourself could finally breathe again in relief.
“You have really strong lungs,” he spoke softly, the water all over his face running over to the dips of his closed eyelids.
“You’re lucky that you do too, you idiot!” You scolded him, your own voice breathless and weak, and so quiet and hoarse it didn’t even sound like you anymore. “Why would you jump in there?”
He opened his eyes to look at you, propping himself on his elbows while his chest still heaved for even the slightest breath of air, a more melancholic look settling in them. “I found a daisy for you, but I dropped it and it blew into the water.”
You were quiet, finally feeling relieved that breathing was almost as easy and natural as it had always been, while Taehyung still wheezed next to you.
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, looking truly remorseful, and you filled with guilt; he endangered his life for something that would simply make you smile.
You collapsed completely in the mud beside him, the blades of grass slightly itchy against your soft skin, looking up at the bright sky. “It’s okay, Tae, just please never leave my sight again, okay?”
He looked toward you completely, his expression shimmering with absolute admiration as he promised. “Never. I can’t breathe without you.”
When you raised your head from your laptop, the freshly bought nutella jar was upside down and balanced on his face, right over his open mouth with chocolate spread smeared around his skin.
“Oh my god, you can’t have eaten all that already!”
He tilted his head to look at you, his dark-stained lips already asking a very meek ‘what?’, voice quiet and eyes wide in an inquisitive way, the empty jar falling from being perched on his skin into his waiting chocolate-smeared fingers.
“That’s way too much sugar, your poor skin.” You tutted, rising from the stiff chair, stretching your arms over your head, one foot already hitting the floor to bring you closer to him.
“You can never have too much sunshine and happiness!” Taehyung cheered, his nutella-stained teeth grinning wide, smiling eyes following you as you moved away from your work and over towards how he lay on the couch.
“Come on, Tae. You’ll never get any study time in if all you do is eat.” You prodded his stomach softly for good measure, and he whined quietly at the contact on his soft skin.
Before he could respond, he jerked into a sitting position as he descended into a coughing fit, the sounds so sick and monstrous that you were hesitant to even rub his back as his shoulders shook with the effort.
“Are you okay?” You asked urgently, hand stretching towards your phone already, thumb tense and poised over the emergency call for help.
He stopped coughing, waving his hand at you without meeting your gaze, and you knew his eyes had to be stained and leaking from the strain on his lungs. “Don’t worry, I’m fine, really.”
He tried to put on a smile for you, although he looked pained; his eyes were watery and red, his skin tense and missing the smooth honey-richness that it used to drown in, a smear of blood on his lower lip that you reached up to wipe away. His eyes fell into an emotion less than cheerful, and the mere sight made your own eyes well up before you could put on a brave mask to stop it.
“I really wish you’d let them help you,” you murmured, your sad gaze still locked on his lips.
He licked them quickly, only a small portion of the chocolate being wiped away, still trying to wear a convincing smile so you yourself could be happy. “I’m fine, I really am.”
The next moment, before you could think of how to retaliate to his stubbornness, he leapt up from the couch, proceeding to suck his fingers visibly clean of his favourite spread.
“Something’s bothering you,” he interjected suddenly, watching you from a short distance, not far enough that he had to raise his voice in the slightest, his eyes as warm and kind as they had always been.
You did your best to make the hum sound light and carefree, but the heat quickly rising along your neck as blood rushed to your face, and the way your eyes immediately shifted to your feet gave away your cover completely.
“Come on,” Taehyung tried to pry it out of you. “You know you can tell me anything. I might even know how to help your dilemma,” he added, pointedly licking his finger for emphasis, the same finger that was absolutely smothered in a child’s food fifteen seconds ago, and you couldn’t control the smile from blossoming on your face.
It was now or never, and you weren’t going to lose your nerve to tell him yet again.
“I, uh, have something to tell you,” you spoke cautiously as your smile hid, your fingers fiddling with themselves subconsciously, not even blinking as you watched for any sort of reaction from him, and he knew that too, his eyes narrowing suspiciously.
“What?” His tone was equally cautious, his eyes narrow but just as unblinking as yours.
“There’s somewhere I have to travel to, for work.”
He squinted at you, his expression morphing into amusement. “Geez, I don’t appreciate the short notice, but I guess I can pack-”
The firmness behind your tone was enough to stop him in his tracks, his face changing again into a state of shock as he scrambled for his words while praying you were going to change yours.
“You don’t mean, away from me? Completely?”
You knew him, you knew how much he had to be hurting on the inside by just the thought of you being in a different city to him, even for a few hours, let alone days or even weeks. You stepped towards him, so close that your noses would touch with another inch, your hands coming up to rest on the sides of his face.
“I have to leave you,” you spoke softly, keeping his face between your hands. He gave no reaction, blankly staring right back at you.
“I have to move somewhere else for a few weeks,” you continued speaking, wary of how fragile he was despite the emptiness he seemed to reciprocate. “But I’ll come back when it’s all done, I promise.”
His eyes started to dampen, and you pressed your lips together in attempt to stop the constricting dryness from obstructing your throat, your thumbs moving to softly wipe under his eyes before the tears had even fallen.
“Tae, I have to go, I have to travel for work. It’s only a four hour drive, it’s not like there’s a whole ocean between us.”
But there was; an ocean Taehyung couldn’t swim in, an ocean that he needed your help to wade through, an ocean he needed you to be able to breathe in. He tried to bargain with you, paying no mind to the fact that if you had any control over the situation yourself, you wouldn’t leave him for an instant.
“Travel to my house.”
“Tae, you know that I can’t-”
“I’m not well enough to be without you, please, don’t leave.”
You wiped under his eyes in preparation for the tears he was insistent to expel before they could form, his hands coming up to hold you around the middle. His lips twitched as he held it in; he almost told you how he couldn’t breathe without you, and he had to improvise, so he told the absolute truth.
“I lied today,” he mumbled, feeling too ashamed to look you straight in the eye, “the doctor said I don’t have long left, that I should go on the transplant list, that someone has to be with me at all times now.”
Your lips pressed together tighter. He didn’t realise that you already knew that.
“I’ll call you all of the time, I’ll have someone check on you every single hour, Tae, I swear you will be okay.”
He finally started to accept it, leaning forward to wrap you completely in his embrace, his arms holding you closer than painfully close, completely silent for the longest time.
“You have to promise me that you’ll always be safe,” he pressed, his arms not yet releasing you.
You scoffed playfully, while your eyes blinked far more than usual to keep the water at bay. “Me? You better focus on getting better, sunshine.”
He couldn’t bear to answer you, humming so softly that he hoped would pass for confirmation, his hand rubbing your back softly as he breathed in the air by your neck for what could be the last time.
It was around four am when the repeated buzzing of your phone woke you from your well-deserved sleep, and you groggily looked at the bright screen, trying to recognise the number, but it didn’t look familiar.
It had to be important - why would anybody call at this damned hour?
You swiped to answer the rings and held it up to your ear, slumping back in bed, your vision splashed with colourful dots as you looked at the dark ceiling.
“Miss,” an unfamiliar voice started straightaway, and by their breathlessness, your skin prickled with anxiety, “do you know Kim Taehyung?”
The prickles burned more fiercely, and you were already sitting up in bed, answering with a very tentative confirmation.
“He’s in the theatre right now, I have to notify his next of kin. It would be best if you came here.”
Before she’d even finished speaking, you grabbed your keys, too shocked to care if you weren’t properly dressed, using your limbs to fly out of the house with a panic-fuelled adrenaline.
Nothing else that went on around you reached your ears. Were there sirens and car horns beeping? Were the trees rattling with the wind that shook them? Was a bird calling, a dog barking somewhere? You couldn’t tell. You couldn’t hear anything over the sound of the heartbeat that rang in your ears.
You shouldn’t be driving in this state, you knew it, but Taehyung was dying, right now.
“Miss,” the surgeon started again, “I have to hang up now,-”
“No,” you grovelled, your voice low but quiet, quivering off at the end. “Please, stay on the line, I need to know.”
For a moment, only silence came from the other end of the phone, before the surgeon started talking again, telling you about how he’d been rushed in a few hours ago after he’d been found unconscious in the garden, how he seemed to be doing much better before his system plummeted.
She also asked if you were feeling okay, and you had nothing to say back to her, one hand frozen with the phone to your ear, while the other turned onto the highway, your right foot much heavier than usual. You only sped past four exits when you noticed it, on the road in the same lane you were on, a massive truck beside you speeding ahead of your car that now dwindled along, well under the speed limit as it tried to overtake you.
“South on the Highway, exit 134,” you breathed so quietly and quickly into the phone the spokesperson almost didn’t hear you, “there’s an accident, send someone now,” you paused to swallow quickly, your other hand sweating as it gripped the wheel tighter. “I have strong lungs, and he just needs to breathe.”
You hung up the next second, throwing the phone to the backseat of your car just as the sound of horns blaring, and your car jerked then, the tires sliding around on the ice as you tried to regain the control that you knew you couldn’t get back, before your car skidded sideways into a truck, the thick crash of metal against metal rattling in the air.
When he woke up, he was laid neatly in a bed, the blankets pulled up just before where the burning cuts had to be, small machines of all sorts attached to his arms, blinking and beeping different tunes. He tried to take a deep breath through the nozzle strapped underneath his nose, and although his chest screamed at him, his lungs could finally pull in air the easiest it had ever been in years.
All too soon, the sound of footsteps echoing on the hall floors grew louder as someone grew nearer, and Taehyung shut his eyes, already knowing it was a doctor come around to check on him. The steps paused at the end of his bed, before a sigh of dread filled the air.
“We need to have a talk,” he looked down at the folder filled with his information at the foot of the bed as he searched for his name, “Taehyung.”
He kept his eyes closed, resolving to humming in confirmation, his skin searing and aching with a pain he’d never imagined possible, even with the painkillers being pumped deep into his veins.
“There’s been an accident, a very bad one. A collision, on the Highway.” The doctor took in a breath, watching his patient closely for any reaction, yet he stayed completely still in his bed.
“It was a quick death, Taehyung. You can breathe easily knowing that she didn’t feel any pain.”
He squinted groggily at the man, becoming more and more alert and anxious with each passing second. They didn’t mean you, did they?
He shifted slightly where he stood, as if he was searching for a way to tell him something, and with a thudding drop in his gut, Taehyung didn’t want to know. The doctor could tell, by the look on his patient’s face, he was begging him to say literally anything else, and he rubbed the back of his neck, searching for the strength to carry out the part of his job he hated the most.
“I think you already know who we’re talking about, Taehyung.”
“No,” he begged, the shock blurring his vision, his face both hot with the blood rush of his sobs and frozen in terror, in absolute disbelief. “She’s not, she could never-”
“We were able to give you the transplant, because of her.”
“You mean,” He started with a horrified look, pushing through the hiccupped sobs he knew would escape him soon, “she’s inside me?”
He looked down frantically at his chest, over the massive bandage that hid stitches that held his skin together over your lungs. He was breathing with a piece of you, and the sheer fact that it felt the easiest breathing ever had in years drowned him in his guilt.
“N-no, there must be some mistake-”
The doctor shook his head, silencing him before he could even grovel for another option, a different alternative to you just being gone.
“She gave us permission to use her organs in the event she died.”
“How?” He cried, his corded hands moving to hold himself, and it didn’t matter that it hurt with an intensity so relentless that it made his legs twitch and writhe where they were; it wasn’t his right to ache over the piece of you that shouldn’t be inside him.
The doctor licked his lips quickly, contemplating whether or not he should actually tell his patient how the most important person in the world to him had exactly vanished. “She was talking to one of the surgeons while she was on her way here,” he finally decided to speak, his knuckles white from gripping the metal foot of the bed so tightly, “there was ice on the road, she must have spotted it before she lost control of the vehicle on it.”
He couldn’t even breathe now, his chest quivering; it really was all his fault. You knew you wouldn’t make it, you knew your body couldn’t be saved from the accident, but you could save his. He refused to accept it.
Taehyung tried to swallow, knowing full well he was kidding himself, but he could never forgive himself for trying, burdened with the fact that you died for him. “You said, in the event that she died,” he clenched his teeth together at the word, it tasted so bitter on his tongue, “so does that mean there’s a chance that-”
The look the doctor gave him stopped him again. “No, Taehyung. Her neck snapped immediately on impact. She was gone before she even knew she’d been hit.”
The choked sobs finally escaped then, and he wailed like he was dying as his whole body shook, and he groaned to himself why you wouldn’t at least try to save yourself, the doctor quickly stepping up to the iv machine.
“This is for your own good, Taehyung, you don’t want to put yourself back in theatre.”
It had to be a sedative, what the doctor was pushing into him, his eyes feeling sore with exhaustion, his limbs no longer finding the strength to thrash around, his skin bleeding so much that he could see the bandage on his chest soak more and more with red dots before they melded together into a pond of his helplessness. His voice was quiet, calm and soothing when he spoke to Taehyung again, hand retracting from the syringe he’d been steadily pressing down on.
“We were able to save four other lives, too. Thanks to her consent, five people can live on.”
But what if Taehyung didn’t want to live on?
The crushing fatigue was too much for him, he had to give up and rest, and through the impossible weight of all the guilt, he could swear that before he closed his eyes for the last time, you were in the same room with him, standing by his bed wearing a worried smile, your fingers gently moving from his forehead into his hair like they always did when he tossed and turned at night because he couldn’t even sleep without you.
He stepped slowly, his body weighed down with an invisible force, his feet struggling to find the motivation to keep pressing forwards; but he had to do this, he owed it at the very least.
Through all the therapy and medication, there was no instructions about how to handle the loss of you, his most favourite person in the whole wide world, the reason he could keep going on for all that time, continue smiling and seeing the positivity in the same world that discarded him before he had a chance to live.
You never deserved to be extinguished, especially not for him; how could he not feel like it was his fault? He’d let them call you, he knew you’d worry and you’d do something silly, but even in your last moments you were completely selfless, putting his rapidly diminishing state of healthy over your own.
He’d made sure you had the best headstone, ordering one made completely of coloured glass, purples and blues and oranges dancing together over the bright green field, engraving it with the most curvaceous font he could find. The world had to know that you were different, you didn’t deserve to go like this, to have to lie still in the ground at such a young age. They had to see the colours you could never see in yourself cast over the earth in such a captivating brilliance that Taehyung couldn’t even see without.
He started to choke up before he could help himself, letting himself fall to his knees right in front of where you lay, crying the hardest he ever had. His fingers buried into the dirt through the newly grown grass, having to just hold onto something that he could call you. He lay with his chest right over where you had to be, his arms spread like he was trying to hug you through the layers of dirt and the harsh wooden box he had to leave you in.
He had no flowers to give you, no wreath, no picture frame filled with your bright smiling face to lay beneath your name. He tried to breathe, his heart racing fast enough for both of you, his lungs struggling to work as if they still belonged to you, and his own diseased lungs were still trapped inside him.
He swore to himself as he finally regained control over his breathing, nails digging harder into the soft grass, his eyes trained on the single flower that grew upwards from the soil, the daisy’s petals a soft mellifluous yellow like the flowers that would bloom from the ground wherever you stepped.