NC-17 + Minhyuk/Sungjae, Ilhoon/Hyunsik, Hyunsik/Joo (broken Minhyuk/Eunkwang, Sohyun/Hyuna) + we'll see when we get there
warnings: recreational drug use, mentions of a suicide attempt, discussions of mental illness (depression, anxiety, eating disorder).
the world shifts and some things fall apart, while others fall together. (minhyuk moves back home, hoping for an uneventful summer and getting sungjae instead. hyunsik comes back to the apartment he shares with his girlfriend and finds her brother, ilhoon, on the couch. sohyun tries to seamlessly slip back into her group of friends without telling them about what she's been through.)
i don't usually post wips before they...aren't wips anymore, but i've decided to change that for this fic. this is probably going to be my pet project for at least the next few months, and i'd rather post parts of it than be completely silent until it's done. this is definitely different than anything else i've written, particularly for btob, but i hope people like it. it has a big cast and kind of jumps around, so there's a lot going on...4minute are in it a lot, too. okay, okay, let's get to the story! i hope you'll tell me what you think if you read it!
part one: strike-slip. 7173 words.
Smoke drifts from between Minhyuk's lips and into the air. He keeps his eyes on the concrete of the patio beneath him, his anchor to the world. There's burning paper between his fingers and he knows his mother will kill him if the smell gets into the house, seeps into the fabric of the furniture, the striping of the wallpaper. So he stands in the backyard, leaned against the sliding door, trying to remember how to breathe.
At college he'd stick his head out the window, but he could only do that for so long. In some ways this is better—in most ways...he doesn't know what to think.
His phone buzzes in his pocket and he slips his hand against the cool, slick back of it for a moment before pressing his index finger to the side, turning the volume down to silent.
He has more missed calls right now than he knows how to handle. Even if it makes things harder on him in the long run, it's easier to ignore them for right now.
When he was little he used to want a remote control that would work on the world around him. He always wanted to jump to the future, to skip days, weeks, months, to get to what he thought the good stuff was. Now he just wants a pause button. He just wants to sit among dust suspended in sunlight, to sit right here for a while. He just wants a moment to himself. He wants to be left alone, for people to stop asking him questions.
All he wants is for this summer to be a quiet one, but it's hard to even imagine that when his mind is the loudest thing of all.
His thoughts jump back to grade point averages and test scores without the slightest provocation. Right now he stares at the chain link fence at the far end of his backyard and tries desperately not to think about the rental text books he has to return, about the e-mails he's definitely getting from academic advisers and professors, all of them asking the same thing.
He feels his hands start to shake at the thought.
He decides to go take a nap.
His mother forces him to go to the grocery store to get things they need later in the day. Pineapple juice and shortbread cookies are, apparently, essentials now. He spends three minutes trying to find a fan for his room before giving up out of a combination of sheer frustration and pure claustrophobia—there are too many people around, too many people who he probably knows or who probably know him.
He walks faster when he sees a lady he just barely remembers as the teacher from the Sunday school he used to attend when he was still in catechism. She'll probably ask him if he's still going to church or if he wants to volunteer at their next fundraiser. He'd promise her he would and then he'd never show up and he knows it would disappoint her.
Standing in line he stares at the magazines racks and tries not to vomit. Some famous person had a baby. That's good. He tries to focus on the baby story and not the way he's tearing up for no good reason. He hopes the baby is healthy, he wants someone to have some stability in their lives.
The cashier smiles at him when she tells him how much he owes her and he has a moment where he can't remember how to pay for things or how to smile in response.
From the end of the conveyor belt comes a happy voice saying, "Minhyuk-hyung, shouldn't you take out your wallet?"
There's a tall boy standing there, looking at him expectantly. Minhyuk blinks at him and takes out his wallet from his pocket. That's—yeah, that's where he put the money his mother gave him to pay for this.
He mumbles a, "Thanks," as he hands the money over and the tall boy nods and continues bagging everything Minhyuk just bought.
It doesn't occur to him until he's halfway home that the tall boy called him by name, that he knew who he was—and that Minhyuk has no idea who he is.
It's the ninth time Hyunsik has called him in the past half hour, so Minhyuk finally answers with a shaky voice, "Hello? What is it?" tapping his fingers against the top of the empty beer can on the patio table in front of him, late afternoon air sticky on his skin.
"Where are you?" Hyunsik says, words rushing out of his mouth so fast that Minhyuk regrets this already. But there's a part of him that was overheating and it cools at the sound of Hyunsik's voice, if nothing else. "I've been waiting for hours now, hyung! I know you—I know things are different for you, but you promised you'd help me move my stuff."
"Yeah, I guess that about covers that, doesn't it."
"Hyunsikie," Minhyuk says, voice sweet, but nervous, "I am so sorry—I don't think I'm going to be able to make it. Couldn't—I mean, maybe you should call Eunkwang?"
"No, Eunkwang has fucking one million other things to do, like always, you know that." Hyunsik rarely gets angry, but when he does the feeling is palpable, heavy in the air. Minhyuk isn't even with him face to face and he can feel himself cowering. "Look, I know you're going through shit. I know whatever happened—well, it happened. But you told me you could handle this."
"I did," Minhyuk agrees. He's leaning over in his chair, the palm of one hand against his forehead. "But I'm sorry, I can't. I really need—"
"Save it for someone who—" Hyunsik stops suddenly and sighs. "I don't mean that. What I was just going to say, I don't mean it. I do care, hyung, but I just have other things right now."
"I know," Minhyuk says, hoping for his words to sound resolute. They come out more like a whisper.
"I'll probably call Changsub and offer him some beer if he helps me tomorrow," Hyunsik half-heartedly jokes, like anything's going to sound funny to Minhyuk right now. "Just—you're not the type, you know? You're not the type to make promises and not keep them. I'm more surprised than angry, I think."
Minhyuk laughs a little brokenly at that. "I'll, um, I'll fix it. What's wrong with me, I'm going to fix it, Hyunsikie."
Hyunsik is quiet for a moment and in response he just says, "I have to go, I'll talk to you later."
Minhyuk chews on his own words until it starts to get dark out. He goes inside when mosquitoes start to bite at his skin, with the sound of the fluorescent patio lights drowning out his own thoughts.
The walls of his room are bare and he stares at them at five in the morning, his eyes burning from lack of sleep, fingers on the bones of his wrist, on his veins.
He can't sleep when he's supposed to anymore.
He's almost expecting it this time, the quiet, "Minhyuk-hyung?" that he hears the next afternoon. He doesn't even have to look up to see the tall boy leaning against the chain link fence in-between their backyards. He remembers now.
"Yook Sungjae," he says, like he always used to, "what are you doing outside when you should be studying?"
Glancing up he sees the brilliance of Sungjae's smile and it hurts a little, the way the sun does when you look into it stupidly, like you forgot how bright it was even though that's something you can never really forget.
"It's summer, hyung, there's no homework for me to do," Sungjae pauses, but only for a second. It's like he's learned that he's not supposed to blurt things out, but he still barely has the patience to do much more than control himself momentarily. "Can I come over and sit with you?"
He leaves off the like I used to, but Minhyuk hears it anyway and nods because of it.
"I didn't recognize you the other day," he says as he watches Sungjae climb the fence, swing one leg over and then the other. "You're a lot taller than I remember."
"I got my braces off, too!" Sungjae says, because in his world that's probably the big news. He bares his teeth in a way that almost makes him unattractive. Minhyuk swallows and leans back in his chair. Sungjae walks like he should be floating, like there's nothing really keeping him attached to the earth. "I'm a lot different than you remember, probably."
"What I remember about you, Sungjae, is that you never left me alone," Minhyuk replies, but there's no edge to his words. He can't bring himself to cut anyone besides himself. "You and that other boy, the one you were always with."
"Ilhoon," Sungjae supplies, quickly. "I don't care if you remember him, though—just me."
"Ah," Minhyuk can't help but smile at that. He gestures towards the chair next to him and Sungjae sits immediately. "You're such a good friend."
"I haven't—" Sungjae stands across the table from Minhyuk now, handsome with the sun behind his head, casting a shadow. Minhyuk can see him swallow. "I haven't seen Ilhoon in months. He barely even texts me back and he never answers his phone. I'm not even sure I remember him all that much. It's like, I've known him all my life but he's someone different now."
Minhyuk hears only half of what Sungjae says. He supplies his own meaning to the words. Sungjae is lonelier than he knows he is and there's a flood of thoughts that he needs to let out into the air. Minhyuk gestures at the chair Sungjae is standing next to, says, "Sit down."
The metal of the chair scrapes against the brick of the patio and the sun is in Minhyuk's eyes again. It hurts, but sometimes that's okay.
Two hours later he's leading Sungjae up the stairs in his house. The stairs creak under their weight and his mother is watching a game show in the living room downstairs, but it's mostly quiet in his room with the door closed behind them. His bed is made like it always is when he gets home at night, like it was when he came home last month, like it always has been every day of his life even though he's never done it.
He rolls a joint while Sungjae looks through his DVDs and albums. Most of them are in cracked or broken cases, he hasn't bought any of either thing in years.
"You like Nirvana?" Sungjae asks, words as a placeholder so he doesn't have to look at the flame blooming out of the lighter in Minhyuk's hand.
"I pretended to in tenth grade." Minhyuk inhales and then exhales smoke, exhales responsibilities, exhales his anxiety and watches it all float up to the ceiling. "Come here."
Sungjae sits gingerly on the edge of his bed, eyes darting around the room, trying to find something to talk about. It was easier for him outside, Minhyuk figures, watching him. There was an out, it was easier to leave. Now—Minhyuk pushes the window next to him open and the room is awash with the cries of cicadas—he's in unfamiliar territory.
"You guys got the fence replaced," Minhyuk says, finally, and he watches with some amusement as Sungjae finally breathes because now they have something to talk about.
"Yeah, well, it had that hole in it for the longest time, remember?"
"Mhm." Minhyuk holds out the joint to Sungjae and gauges his reaction: a few blinks and then a hesitant reach for what's being offered before Minhyuk pulls it back towards him. "Get your own, I paid for this, Sungjae-ya. I seem to remember you and your friend running through out backyard during the summer."
A pout on his face, Sungjae leans against the windowsill, his forehead against glass. "We thought it was funny. We thought—I thought you might notice us."
"I did." Minhyuk smiles fondly, unable to help himself. "I noticed you being annoying."
"And now?" Sungjae asks, suddenly alert. "Am I still annoying now?"
The room is quiet and dark. Minhyuk waves his hand in the air, trying to dissipate some of the smoke around them as he moves to lean forward on his knees. The bed springs protest underneath him. This bed has been old since he got it ten years ago.
"Now," he says, slowly, bringing the joint to his lips, "I want to share with you. Open your mouth."
Sungjae, unsurprisingly, does exactly as he's told, eyes wide—but they flutter closed as soon as Minhyuk gets close. And when Minhyuk breathes into his mouth, exhales everything he's holding in, he only jolts momentarily at the unexpectedness of it before melting into the touch.
And Minhyuk has never known something like this to end chastely, so it feels natural to push Sungjae back, to lick at the inside of his mouth, at his teeth, to taste him. To have Sungjae underneath him, completely pliant and leaning up into a kiss, his hips rising up from the bed.
"Already?" Minhyuk says, quietly, smiling with their lips just an inch apart. The heel of his palm against Sungjae's clothed dick and, oh, he's too cute. "Already," he confirms, material just slightly sticky under his fingers.
"S-Sorry," Sungjae gasps out, looking embarrassed and startled all at the same time. It's a good look on him, but honestly most looks probably are. Minhyuk's a little jealous, but he'd never admit it.
"It's okay," and that's not a lie. Minhyuk sits up and leans back. His lips are dry and his eyes are burning. "Do you want to stay? Because if you want to leave, that's fine. But if you want to stay—that's fine, too."
"I should probably go."
Sungjae falls asleep on his bed and Minhyuk stays up until the sun rises.
It's nice to not be alone.
There's a boy on the couch with honey-blonde hair (black roots showing) and Hyunsik knows his name, but he doesn't know why he's there.
"Ilhoon-ah," he says, dropping his keys on the kitchen table, letting the straps of his duffle bag fall to the inside of his elbow, "what are you doing here?"
Ilhoon doesn't look up from his phone. He's wearing glasses. Hyunsik can't remember the last time he saw him wear glasses. His voice is barely above a whisper when he replies with, "Didn't Minjoo tell you?" It's the sort of accusatory statement that's typical from him. Nothing is ever his fault and now it's Hyunsik's job to look stupid, to admit that his girlfriend didn't tell him about this.
"No," he says, carefully. Ilhoon's always been a bomb that's ready to explode at a moments notice, with a minefield a mile wide around him. "Would you mind telling me, instead? I think she's been busy with work and I was busy with finals until yesterday. She probably just never got around to telling me what was going on."
"I want chocolate milk," Ilhoon says, softly. He's quieter than he usually is, like someone told him he had to keep his voice down. But his words are still a demand and Hyunsik knows he'll never get an answer out of him if he doesn't bring him a carton full of sweetness, so that's exactly what he does. The drawer at the bottom of the fridge is full of little brown cartons, which means Ilhoon's going to be here for a while.
He watches as Ilhoon pulls and pushes the carton open, looking like a little kid as he sips at it. They're both on the couch now, Ilhoon covered in blankets and wearing pajamas and Hyunsik half-asleep from all nighters. He'd planned on going to bed as soon as he got home. Ilhoon always manages to make him do things he never intended to.
"Why did Minjoo say I was in the hospital in March?" Ilhoon asks, suddenly.
"Um, I don't—appendicitis? Something like that, nothing serious."
"Ah." Ilhoon nods, like he's considering the answer. "I tried to kill myself, but I guess that's nothing serious."
Hyunsik flounders for something to say, feeling stupid with his mouth open. His thoughts race to his Intro to Psych class, freshman year, but that's clinical at best, insensitive at worst. He thinks about saying he had a friend who tried that one time, but that seems tantamount to saying he had a friend who tried meth—it doesn't mean anything.
"You don't know what to say, that's alright," Ilhoon says, with the tone of someone who's had to say those exact words before. "You don't have to say anything. But that's why I'm here. Minjoo thinks I'll do better here than at home. Don't be mad at her for not telling you."
"I'm not." The words are small and weak, even though they're true. Hyunsik is embarrassed that he can't get out anything more than that.
"I won't bother you guys," Ilhoon promises. He has his phone in his hands again, the screen reflected in the lenses of his glasses. "You'll barely even know I'm here."
Five minutes later Hyunsik comes all over his hands in the bathroom, shower turned on full blast, and thinks that that's not true at all.
"You cut your hair," Hyunsik says, kissing Minjoo's cheek. Her skin is soft under her lips and, if he's being honest with himself, he loves her. She smells like something warm, like a bonfire on a summer night, but softer. Her hair used to be past her shoulders, but now it stops at them.
"Yeah, last weekend, I just thought it would be better—you know, because of the weather and everything." She smiles, fingers against his cheek for a moment before she slips away, pulling things out of grocery bags and putting them in cupboards. "How did your finals go?"
"Good, I think." Hyunsik stands next to her, he takes boxes of pasta and frozen dinners out of bags. "The only class I was really worried about was Applied Physics, but I have a feeling the professor is going to curve the grade since it didn't seem like anyone was that confident about the test. And what about you, how was work?"
"It was bullshit." She shrugs and he's always liked the line of her shoulders, the way everything is graceful about her, like she's the only thing that stays calm in the middle of a storm. "I argued with some guy on the phone for an hour about his lease and he called me a bitch so I hung up on him. Guess who got yelled at about that?"
"Honestly, your boss is so fucking—"
"Yeah, no need to finish that thought, I know, but," she brandishes a jar of salsa and a container of table salt, "despite that, I'm still getting the raise."
"Really?" He's surprised, he takes the salsa in hand. It weighs his palm down and for a second he thinks about dropping it, but he doesn't. "Well that will be good, because—well, just because. It'll be good."
"Because Ilhoon's here?"
"You know, he—"
"I know, he told me."
Minjoo leans back against the kitchen counter, arms crossed. He can see her running her tongue over her teeth, something she does when she's worried about something.
"My parents were smothering him," she says. "They meant well, but they were treating him like a baby. I would have asked you if it was okay, but it was all kind of sudden. I was visiting them and I just—I couldn't let him stay in that house."
"It's okay, I like Ilhoon, you know that," he assures her.
She looks at him like she wants to say something to that, but all she says is, "I know."
Hyunsik drives Ilhoon to his group meeting on Thursday. The inside of his car is sweltering, leather seats sticking to skin. The air conditioner works, but it almost doesn't matter with no clouds in the sky and the sun beating down. The sky is too blue.
"What do you talk about at these things?" Hyunsik asks. Minjoo told him last night that Ilhoon won't talk to her about things, that he keeps to himself and that she knows he's an adult, but he's her baby brother and she wants to know if he's okay.
Ilhoon shrugs. He bites at the inside of his mouth when he's anxious. Hyunsik glances at him and sees sweat on his neck, on his upper lip, in the few seconds allowed to him while they wait for a red light to change.
"You don't know?" They're turning into the parking lot now, speed bump under wheels, weightlessness for half a second.
"It's not about how much I want your dick in my ass," Ilhoon says and Hyunsik was wondering when that dam would break, he just didn't think it would be right now.
"Okay," he says, throat dry, car in park in front of the building. "I'll see you around four?"
"Yeah, see you then." Ilhoon gets out of the car and slams the door behind him.
He doesn't look back.
Sohyun breathes a sigh of relief when Ilhoon walks into the room, door closing heavy behind him. He smiles at her and she feels her nerves (some of them, anyway) melt away.
The kid directly across from her is talking about how he didn't go to any of his classes all semester, how he always intended to go, but just couldn't. Sohyun sympathizes, it's like when she piles a plate high with food and ends up throwing it all away a half an hour later.
Ilhoon's trying to be quiet getting a chair from the stack on the other side of the room and not doing a very good job of it. Sohyun giggles a little as he pushes his chair inbetween hers and the girl to her right.
"Why are you late?" she whispers, leaning over, pulling at the sleeves of her shirt so they cover her hands.
"My sister's boyfriend drove me, he's never been here before," Ilhoon replies. He sounds more tense than he usually does.
Miss Choi shoots them a look, but it's a soft one, she's not quite angry yet. She never really gets angry, just disappointed.
"Can we hang out after this?" Sohyun asks, poking his leg to get his attention again. Ilhoon's eyes are so pretty and he's the only person who really looks at her these days. Everyone else looks just over her shoulder and thinks that she won't notice, but she does.
Ilhoon shakes his head in response. "Sorry, I can't, Tuesday though—let's plan on Tuesday."
Sohyun sits back in her chair. The girl next to her is talking about how tired she is.
"We're all tired," Sohyun says and Miss Choi frowns at her, but it's the truth. "The trick is finding something that makes being awake feel like it's worth it."
She doesn't talk for the rest of the two hours they're there.
The door to the diner has never been so hard to pull open. Sohyun instantly spots Gayoon and Jiyoon in their normal booth, Gayoon with her head on Jiyoon's shoulder. It's Jihyun who sees her and waves her over, a small smile on her face.
Jiyoon is talking, but she gets quiet when Sohyun walks up, laughter halting immediately. Gayoon is asleep, or at least it looks like she is and Sohyun doesn't doubt it, she's always tired these days.
Jihyun moves over so Sohyun can sit next to her and says, "How did it go, Sohyunie? Did you have fun?"
"Wh—oh, yeah, I think I'm really going to like volunteering there," Sohyun replies, almost faltering, almost forgetting what Jihyun means. "Where's...where's Hyuna?"
"She said she didn't feel well," Jiyoon says, quietly, picking at her half-eaten plate of fries. Sohyun almost wishes Gayoon were awake. She'd be more direct than Jiyoon, she'd tell her that she thinks Hyuna's avoiding her rather than just not looking her in the eyes like Jiyoon is. "I really hope she feels better soon. It's been a while since all five of us hung out together."
"Well Gayoon's busy with her job, too," Jihyun says, almost excitedly. Sohyun can tell that's for her benefit, to make her feel better about being the reason Hyuna hasn't been around. "And now Sohyunie's going to be busy volunteering...we need to plan something!"
"Yeah!" Jiyoon nearly starts bouncing in her seat and then immediately covers her mouth when Gayoon moves suddenly, making an annoyed noise. "Oh, no, sorry..."
Gayoon is rubbing at her eyes with the heels of her palms as she sits up. "It's fine. I'm glad to see Sohyunie—" The end of her sentence is cut off with a yawn and Sohyun feels bad as she notices the bags under her eyes. "I think my lunch break is almost over, anyway."
"Jihyun wants to plan something," Jiyoon tells her, now bouncing freely at the idea. "Something so all of us can get together—Hyuna, too!"
"Do you think that's a good idea?" Gayoon asks, eyes on Sohyun now.
"I think it's better than leaving things up to chance." Jihyun's voice is soft like it always is when she's trying to be diplomatic. "We all want to see each other but if we don't plan something out there's always going to be someone missing."
"You know that's not what I mean, unnie." Gayoon glances to the side and—her look isn't cold, but it's still icy, it's still freezing, it still says stop, even if it says that nicely. "Sohyun and Hyuna haven't been around each other since they broke up."
"I-It's not a big deal!" Sohyun blurts out, instantly regretting it as everyone turns to look at her. "We're fine, we've just both been busy. I mean, how was I supposed to see her anyway when I was in—when I was on vacation? Just find out what dates work for her and for all of you and then let me know. My hours are really flexible at the center."
Sohyun is already up and halfway across the diner when she hears Jihyun call after her.
She's outside and almost to her car when Jihyun catches up to her.
"Sohyun, wait," she's saying, grabbing at her arm, voice desperate. "I just want to make sure you're okay."
"I'm fine," Sohyun insists, but even she can hear that her words are weak and there's nowhere to hide out here, under the afternoon sun. "I just—I felt a little like I was going to be ambushed."
"You know we would never—"
"I know, but I just got anxious," Sohyun interrupts and it's that word that makes Jihyun pause. She's the only one out of all of them who knows even the slightest bit about what Sohyun has been through this past year. "I didn't want to have a panic attack in there."
"I don't want you to have a panic attack anywhere," Jihyun says, eyebrows drawn together.
Sohyun is quiet for a minute before reaching out for Jihyun's hand and squeezing it. "Thank you. I just—you know I love you guys, but there are things I need to talk to someone about that none of you will understand."
"But you do have someone who understands you?"
"Yes, I do."
Jihyun squeezes her hand and smiles at her. She's warmer than the sun.
Turning the keys in the ignition, listening to the engine turn off, Sohyun says, "If you want to know where I am, you have three guesses."
She can practically feel Ilhoon smile over the phone. "I'll be out in a minute."
Sohyun drops her phone into the cupholder next to her and uses her rear-view mirror to get a look at herself. She looks exhausted, her hair's a mess, she hasn't been able to sleep since last week, which is why she's outside Ilhoon's apartment building at two in the morning. He's the only person she knows who doesn't think anything of her showing up at this time of night.
Probably because he can't sleep, either.
She doesn't relax until she sees him pushing open the front door of his building, until he's opening the side door of her car.
"I come bearing ice cream," she says, turning in her seat to reach behind the console, to find the bag she has set on the floor, the carton of Neapolitan she bought not fifteen minutes ago and the pack of plastic spoons she got with it.
"It's going to melt!" he says, but he takes a spoon from her anyway.
"Then you better eat your part fast," she replies, already with a spoonful of strawberry against her lips. He goes straight for the chocolate. In ten minutes there wont be anything but vanilla left and she wouldn't have it any other way.
Ilhoon closes the front door behind him and drops his keys onto the table by the door, like he always does. He nearly jumps when he sees someone sitting on the couch.
"Jesus," he hisses, "what are you doing up?"
"I couldn't sleep," Minjoo says, arms around herself. "Are you going to come sit by me?"
He does and it's warm by her. Minjoo has always felt like the world to him, like all the good things in it. He leans against her and she puts an arm around him. He feels better than he has in months in some ways, right now, but also worse in others. He doesn't know how to explain that to her.
He never lies to her—he just keeps things to himself.
"Sohyun stopped over," he tells her, eyes on the pattern of her pajama pants: falling snowflakes even though summer's just begun. "She brought ice cream and we talked about—about things we can only really talk to each other about."
"That's good, I'm glad you have that," Minjoo murmurs, and Ilhoon knows that's half true. She's glad, but she wishes she could be that person for Ilhoon. He's tried to tell her so many times that it's not her fault that she isn't.
"Did you say thank you to Hyunsikie for driving you to group and picking you up today?" she asks, with that voice she uses when she says something a mom would say.
Ilhoon is quiet for a minute before admitting, "No."
Minjoo slaps at his upper arm. "Then do that tomorrow. He doesn't have to drive you, you know."
"I never asked him to drive me," Ilhoon says, petulantly. "But—fine, I will. Are you going to go to bed now?"
"Are you trying to get rid of me?"
"No, Joo, no!"
But she's already tickling at his sides and he's so embarrassed, but that always makes him laugh, no matter how bad he feels. Laughter bouncing off the walls and his sister helping him to forget—for just a minute—how bad he feels the rest of the time.
The door to the apartment opens and Ilhoon doesn't look up from his yogurt. He stays where he is sitting on the counter in the kitchen, legs crossed, as he tries to get at what's left in the little plastic cup, scraping his spoon against the edges.
"Minjoo's going to be home late tonight," Hyunsik says and Ilhoon does glance up at that, just long enough to see Hyunsik in his college sweatshirt and jeans, nothing he hasn't seen plenty of times before. He looks down again and tries to breathe evenly.
There are things he wants to know that he shouldn't, but Miss Choi always says that taking risks can be a good thing. That a step in any direction is a step forward if you change your perspective.
"So it's just me and you?" Ilhoon asks, before he puts the last spoonful of yogurt into his mouth. The taste is metallic at the end, the clean spoon against his tongue. If he's not careful he'll bite down on his own lip.
"Until later, yeah, they're behind on some paperwork and you know how she is."
"She said she'd help even though she didn't have to," Ilhoon says, quietly, and he sees Hyunsik nod. He sets the empty plastic cup and spoon to the side and remembers how easy it is to look at Hyunsik and love him. "Does this mean we'll finally talk about it?"
"You do know."
Hyunsik is nervous, but he usually is and Ilhoon thinks to himself that he can put things to bed if he does this one thing. If Hyunsik responds a certain way, then he'll finally feel right in telling Minjoo, he'll feel like it's something she needs to know instead of something he needs to hide from her.
"What I said at the party, Ilhoon, I didn't mean it," Hyunsik is saying and Ilhoon doesn't really care, because that's not the issue anymore. It's not about something that Hyunsik said while he was drunk last October, it's more than that now.
"Come here," Ilhoon says, spreading his legs apart and pushing himself back on the counter. "Just come here and talk to me. If you didn't mean it then you can stop putting whole rooms between us. We're practically family, right?"
Ilhoon met Hyunsik when he was nine on a summer day. Hyunsik lived a block away and he was friends with the older kids, with Minhyuk, Eunkwang, and Changsub. And Ilhoon always liked Hyunsik the most, even when Hyunsik started dating Minjoo, even when that overlapped with Ilhoon's fantasies as a sixteen year old, forehead against the shower wall as he'd think about Hyunsik on his knees for him.
"I just don't want to make you uncomfortable." Hyunsik's voice is so soft and delicate, but Ilhoon knows there's more in him than that.
"You aren't," he says, and he reaches out for Hyunsik who's halfway across the kitchen now. He presses their palms together and pulls Hyunsik to him, between his legs. He's breathing against Hyunsik's skin when he asks, "Am I making you uncomfortable?"
Hyunsik's hand is on his thigh and (this is important) he's the one to lean up and kiss Ilhoon, not the other way around. And Ilhoon means to pull away instantly, he means to get angry and kick Hyunsik away, call him names and get rid of him—but his entire body feels warm and alive, his stomach is nervous and his hands are shaking. There's electricity in his veins and he's hungry.
His legs are around Hyunsik's hips and he's being lifted off the counter, carried to the living room and dropped on the couch. Hyunsik is on top of him and his mouth is open under Ilhoon's and he tastes like watermelon, like sweetness on a summer afternoon, because that's what he is.
He can hear Hyunsik undoing the button of his jeans with his free hand, the other is pulling down the top of Ilhoon's shorts and Ilhoon lifts up his hips and helps him with that, breathes out, "God, fuck," at the feeling of Hyunsik's hand on his ass, the feeling of warm air against his hard cock.
Hyunsik is pulling his sweatshirt off and over his head and Ilhoon's mind is racing. We shouldn't be doing this, is something he thinks clearly, but the whine that rises up in the back of his throat drowns that out.
He says, "I want, I want," words gasped out as he reaches for Hyunsik's hips and pulls them closer.
"I—I don't know what to do," Hyunsik admits and Ilhoon finds it cute, finds himself wanting to kiss at the color on his cheeks.
Ilhoon shakes his head. "S'okay, let me."
He's embarrassed by how his mouth falls open as he brings his hips closer to Hyunsik's, his hand wrapping around both their dicks. He can feel himself sweating, Hyunsik's hand slipping against the back of his thigh. His shorts are down around his ankles now and Hyunsik's skin is hot against his, Hyunsik is moving faster than he is—Hyunsik is coming on his shirt, all over the red material of it.
He collapses on top of Ilhoon and he's heavy and Ilhoon whines in protest, "Hyung, I didn't finish, hyung," but the words are barely out of his mouth before Hyunsik is kissing him again, and his hand is around Ilhoon's dick, stroking from the base all the way up and then back down again. And Ilhoon feels like something in him is going to unravel. Like he's a knot coming undone beneath Hyunsik's fingertips.
Something gives and he tilts his head back, eyes closed as he comes, sinking into the couch.
He whispers, "Fuck," and there's something heavier on his chest than Hyunsik, there's something weighing him down now.
Hyunsik presses kisses against the skin of his shoulder and Ilhoon starts to cry.
There's a plastic cup pressed into Sungjae's hand by someone he barely knows and he doesn't even look at the contents before downing the whole thing.
"Wow," says Namjoo from where she's sitting next to him on the couch, her voice barely louder than the music playing. "You know usually I'd be impressed, but usually you'd be laughing right now and you aren't and that worries me."
Sungjae grimaces at that, but he knows she means well. Namjoo doesn't worry much, but when she does she picks at him like a scab instead of giving him time to heal. He concentrates on her finger nails, painted yellow with little orange suns on them.
"Where's Naeun?" he asks, leaning towards her to avoid someone walking behind them. He isn't even sure who's in his house right now. Half his graduating class, probably. It's a small town so the number isn't that big, but his house isn't that big either.
"She's coming later, I told you." Namjoo is leaning in too, now. She smells like bubblegum. "She couldn't get off work, but she's coming after. And—hey, did Ilhoon decide not to come after all? Last I heard he was a maybe, but seeing as he isn't attached to your hip..."
"He had a family thing." Sungjae waves his hand in the air, like he can get rid of that thread of the conversation. "It's not a big deal."
Namjoo frowns at him, eyes big and concerned and she's too good at figuring out when he's lying.
"I'm going to go out in the backyard for some air." Sungjae stands up suddenly and it's impossible to ignore the hurt look on Namjoo's face, but he needs to get out of this house.
He only has to push past a few groups of people to make it to the sliding door that leads into his backyard. The patio light is on and there's a few people passing around a lighter and blowing cigarette smoke into the air, but it's easier to breathe already with the closed door between him and most of the people he'd rather avoid.
He walks off the patio and onto the grass, past the hedges and the swing set, to the failed garden that he and his dad pretend isn't there anymore. It was his mom's idea to plant things, to grow things. It's one of those things that they haven't touched since they lost her.
The metal of the chain link fence is cold under his hands and the sounds of him climbing over it echo through his backyard.
Minhyuk's backyard is emptier than his, but it has flowers in red clay pots and Sungjae can hear grasshoppers. When he was little he used to imagine a tiny orchestra filled with bugs, a little ladybug with a flute and a butterfly on the saxophone—spiders in the string section, of course.
Those kind of things seem silly now, but are still hard to let go of, and he knocks against Minhyuk's back door with the hope that he'll get some help forgetting things.
It takes a few more knocks, but soon the door is sliding open and Minhyuk's there, eyes bleary and hair tousled, saying, "What is it?" like he's annoyed.
But Sungjae knows he's not. Not really.
"Is that your party?" Minhyuk asks, tilting his head towards the view out of his bedroom window, where Sungjae's house appears lit up, the bass of the music audible even from here.
"Yeah," Sungjae shrugs and tries to look non-chalant. They're sitting on Minhyuk's bed. His room smells like dust and old newspapers, like it hasn't been used in a while. Sungjae's trying not to think about what happened the last time he was in here. "I wasn't even thinking—is your mom home, did I wake her up?"
"No, she's on call." Sungjae vaguely remembers that Minhyuk's mom works late shifts at a hospital, maybe as a nurse. She always waves at him when she sees him outside. He likes her. "Aren't people going to notice you're missing from your own party?"
"Maybe, but not for a while. Everyone will assume I'm with someone else." It's quiet. Sungjae listens to the house settle around them, like it's adjusting to his prescence in it. "Hyung?"
"Hm?" Minhyuk's features are softly lit by the light coming through the window. He looks like a painting, like something that's not quite real.
"Do you still think of me as a kid?"
Minhyuk smiles at that, looking like he's going to laugh.
"I'm serious," Sungjae whines and he realizes the irony in asking this question and then getting immaturely upset, but he doesn't care. "Because I'm not a kid, you know. Just because you're older than me doesn't mean I haven't grown up at all. I'm not the kid who used to sneak into your backyard."
"Ah, you're right, I know it's true. Now you're the adult who sneaks into my backyard and who came in his underwear when I kissed him." The smile hasn't faded from Minhyuk's face, he looks as pleasant as ever. "That's true."
"That was—I wasn't prepared and I'd never—" Sungjae looks to the side and he's glad it's dark because he knows his face is red. "Well, I'd never been kissed by a boy before."
"Do you want me to kiss you again?"
Sungjae looks up sharply and Minhyuk doesn't move. Sungjae is all nerves and Minhyuk—it's like Minhyuk is the calm water of a lake and Sungjae wants to create waves on his surface.
"Is that a yes?" Minhyuk asks, looking at him, like he doesn't know the answer. Sungjae squirms a little and then nods. He feels like he's going to fall into something bigger than himself, like he's going to look down and see nothing but pitch black, a million feet down.
Minhyuk keeps him suspended above the inevitable with a touch that sets him on fire and this time? He's ready for it.
"—hang up or leave your message after the tone."
"Minhyuk-ah, why won't you pick up? I swear I've called you a hundred, thousand times by now! I bet you have your phone turned off—or worse it's dead and you haven't even noticed. I bet that's exactly—oh, sorry, yes. Yes, I'll keep it down. Ah, that was the librarian. I don't know what she's so mad about! They're about to close, anyway...but I'm using my indoor voice now. Don't let that fool you into thinking I'm not mad at you though. I...Minhyuk-ah... Really, I'm not mad at you and I mean that. It's just...why did I have to hear about what happened from other people? I guess it's my own fault, but I wish you would have told me on your own, somehow. I wish you'd pick up the phone. It's selfish, but I want to hear you say that it wasn't my fault, because if it is I'll—I can't even explain how bad I'll feel. So next time when I call...please pick up. We can talk just like we used to and I'll make you laugh. I miss your laugh. I miss you. I'm going to hang up now, but I can't wait to talk to you next time...bye, Minhyuk-ah."
a/n: for anyone wondering who joo/minjoo is: yes she's actually ilhoon's sister. she's a ballad singer under jyp. you can see her being super cute on twitter here. miss choi is cube's solo artist, g.na, and namjoo and naeun are from apink!