Prompt 7 - Tao/Sehun
Summary: Tao moves back to China, leaving Sehun alone with nothing but an empty hourglass.
Tao stood with his hands in his pockets, staring unseeingly at the horizon. The salty wind whipped through his hair, separating it into locks and depositing sand anywhere it could. The sound of the crashing waves drowned out any noise the seabirds may have been making. Or maybe they knew better than to try to fly on a stormy, gray-skied day like this.
The beach had a weird glow to it; the sun was trying its hardest to make one last appearance from behind the clouds before falling into the sea for the night. The result was like a cheaply filmed cable show, with Tao's face and the scraggly assortment of trees behind him bathed in an almost unnatural orange-purple light.
His gaze lowered to the shoreline in front of him. The water kept crawling greedily towards his bare feet, almost reaching its goal before being dragged raucously against its will back to its mother. Tao thought to laugh humorlessly at its effort. The water wasn't much better off than he was.
Tao rocked back and forth slightly, feeling the coarse grains of sand between his toes. Of course it was high tide. He took a shaky breath in and looked back up at the sky. It would be hours akin to centuries before low tide again.
It was only during low tide, when the sea would pull back towards the skyline, that a person could walk past the line of pebbles and shredded pieces of kelp out to the sandbar, where the sand was so soft, you could barely feel it on your hands as you scooped it up. Tao worried the plastic bag folded up in his pocket with his thumb and forefinger as he stood in the drowning sunlight.
It would be sooner rather than later that his family would start to miss him. His mother had been in their mess of a kitchen when he had snuck out the back door. She had been busily stirring what could only have been that night's dinner in a pot on the stove. Tao wasn't hungry.
As he had walked down the side of the road towards the water, his shoes making gravelly noises with each step, he realized his knit sweater had been made with form more in mind than function. The ocean breeze chilled his skin as if he had never put the sweater on in the first place.
Airborne sand assaulted his face as he continued to stare up at the clouds. His teeth chattered and tears came to his eyes. He told himself it was because the wind was so cold, but he knew it wasn't true. The image of a smile came to his mind, one that laughed at him and his attempt to keep his cool image intact when they both knew he was soft at heart.
Tao took another shaky breath through his open mouth and grit his teeth, grabbing his hair with both fists and crouching down in the coarse sand. Sobs racked his chest, and the biting wind ruined his efforts at keeping his tears at bay. The waves heard his crying and imitated the sound, mocking his distress.
Angry at the water's taunt, Tao slapped the sand in front of him in vain. He cursed the water for getting in his way, keeping him from the sand he needed, keeping him stuck here in a place his heart didn't really belong anymore.
"Is your house near the ocean?" Sehun asked. Tao smiled at the way Sehun put deliberate pauses between his words for Tao's benefit.
"Kinda," Tao said teasingly, putting extra effort into his pronunciation, letting the younger boy know he had been caught. Sehun smiled and licked his bottom lip with his tongue, a habit that had never ceased to be fascinating for Tao. Sehun's smile dropped a little as he thought.
"So you're really moving back to China?" Sehun was staring at the pillow in his lap as he asked quietly. Tao's face fell and the blood started to pound in his ears. He didn't answer.
A few seconds passed, and Sehun looked up. "How long are... I mean, will you ever come back?" Sehun tried to keep his voice light and impersonal, his eyebrows twitching slightly at the effort. He had failed miserably though, and they both knew it, the sadness showing through the cracks in his voice.
Tao looked up slowly, daring to make eye contact. Sehun's eyes were that of a puppy being told 'no' before being old enough to understand the meaning behind it. Tao quickly returned his gaze to the floor and swallowed with difficulty, his throat too dry to cooperate.
Sehun followed suit, frowning and looking back down at the pillow. He occupied himself with picking imaginary pieces of lint off the pillowcase. The two sat like this for some time, lost in their own thoughts, until sudden movement from Tao tore Sehun from his task.
"Here, take this." Tao held out his hand towards the younger boy, a small hourglass attached to a necklace-length chain in his palm. Sehun said nothing, but slowly took the thing and busied his hands with that instead.
Tao cleared his throat. "Keep it with you. That way you won't lose track of time and forget me while I'm gone." Tao smiled emptily, the action obviously lacking any sort of positive emotion. Sehun kept his eyes on the trinket and considered Tao's words. Tao watched as the other boy pursed his lips and unscrewed the wooden top, letting the sand tick through the glass and onto the floor.
"Okay. But I'll only keep it with me if you send me sand from the beach in Qingdao, okay? That way I'll know you thought about me at least once." Sehun looked up into Tao's eyes, which were wide and burning. "Okay?"
Tao bit his bottom lip and immediately got up to hug the younger boy, crying silently into his shoulder. Sehun closed the hourglass tightly in his fist and squeezed the other boy, letting just a few of his own tears eke out.
A few hours later, Sehun was left with an empty hourglass, an empty room, and what he needed more than anything else to be more than empty promises to stay in touch.
- High Tide