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. (changsub works the middleman angle for minhyuk and eunkwang. sohyun dyes ilhoon's hair and works towards something like normalcy. sungjae realizes how little he knows about minhyuk and decides to fix it.)
aaaaaand now we've all found out why i usually don't post things as i write them. i'm a slow as shit writer. but, really, i should have future parts up a lot quicker since i'm done with my winter semester and have a lot more free time now!
that said, this chapter focuses pretty heavily on minhyuk and sungjae, with a good amount of sohyun as well. it's a bit shorter than i'd like it to be, but anything else i added to this part would have just been useless padding. everything that needs to happen in this part happens, so i'm happy with it and i hope you are too!
part two: slow burn. 5871 words.
"You know, saying that after you open the door kind of defeats the purpose," Changsub says from where he's laying on his couch, arm draped over his eyes. "It also kind of makes me feel like I need to get new locks."
"Yeah, you might want to think about that."
Minhyuk sounds different than usual, which makes Changsub want to sit up and ask him why that is, but that would require actual effort. Instead, he lets his arm fall to the side and glances towards the doorway. Yeah, Minhyuk looks weird. Almost happy or something, and not the kind of happy where he had to roll down the windows in his car in the parking lot either.
"Are you getting laid?"
"What?" Minhyuk looks aghast, which is probably a facial expression he learned in those acting classes he took two years ago when he decided he was going to become famous for the fifteenth time. "Yeah. A little."
"I knew it." Changsub sits up, because this is suitably exciting. "Eunkwang hasn't called me in two days and I was wondering—"
"Eunkwang is not fucking me. We are not having this conversation." Disgust. With a tiny hint of disbelief. The leather of Changsub's couch creaks underneath him as he considers this.
"Well, technically, as far as I heard, he was never fucking you, but I guess that's beside the point."
"The point being?"
"The point being..." Changsub looks towards his television. It's muted but there's a movie on he's never seen before. Someone is running from something—or towards something? "There's really not much of a difference when you get down to it, is there?"
"Uh, yeah, there is." Minhyuk falls into the chair across from Changsub dramatically. "If I'm fucking Eunkwang then I'm back with my ex, if I'm fucking literally anyone else then that's not the case."
"Huh?" The girl in the movie is crying and Changsub is fairly sure that if the volume was up they'd be hearing a chainsaw revving in the distance. "Oh, yeah, your sex life. My favorite topic of discussion. Though, admittedly, not a very exciting thing to talk about since...last summer."
"Oh, haha. Sorry, we're not all single bachelors living the high life and working the late shift at 7/11."
"Just for that, I'm raising my rates right now."
Minhyuk immediately starts whining and Changsub doesn't listen to him, getting up and heading for the kitchen. "So who is it, then, if it isn't Eunkwang? You know he keeps calling me and giving me messages to give to you, right?"
He can practically hear Minhyuk making a face from the other room. He finds the stuff he keeps for friends and bored college kids with lots of money to blow, or both when those two sections happen to overlap. It's not hard to turn a pretty steady profit in a small town as long as it's teeming with twenty-somethings who are stressed about midterms.
Plastic bag zipped shut and dropped onto Minhyuk's lap, Changsub collapses back onto the couch. "So who is it?"
"It's," Minhyuk pauses and Changsub dreads the next word that he knows is coming, "complicated."
"You can leave the money on the coffee table and show yourself out," Changsub mumurs, because he doesn't have time for bullshit. He only has time for three things: porn, money, and weed. Also food. Four things. He only has time for four things.
"Do you remember that kid that lived in the house behind mine?"
"You're still here?"
"Fine, yes, sort of? Wait...no...him?" Changsub has to look at Minhyuk now because, like, what the fuck. "That's sort of nasty, dude."
"He's an adult now," Minhyuk points out, doing that thing where he gets way too defensive. "He didn't stay suspended in time until you remembered him." He seems to think for a minute, staring at something over Changsub's head and frowning. "He's taller than me."
Changsub can't help it. He laughs a little.
"Shut up, he's probably taller than you, too."
"I'll find out at the wedding, I guess."
"I'd say you should become a comedian, but then you'd have to quit your job selling snacks and condoms to stoned high schoolers, and I know you'd miss it deep down."
"Yeah, you're right, I would." Changsub settles back on the couch again and closes his eyes. "Money on the coffee table, please and thank you. Tell your boyfriend to tell his friends about me. And pick up your phone next time your ex calls because I'm getting sick of being the middleman for you two."
There's the sound of Minhyuk standing up, of him pulling money out of his pocket. "You're only the middleman if you actually tell me what he says, you know."
"He says he can barely write a paper without thinking about how much he misses you. And by you I mean your dick and not, like, you personally—"
The door slams and Changsub opens his eyes to glance at the coffee table. There's money there. And Minhyuk will be back next week, no hard feelings. It's not hard to fall back asleep.
"No, listen, that's the problem. He doesn't answer when I call him—does he answer when you call him?"
"You seem to be working on a premise where I call Minhyuk to talk to him about our feelings and I don't do that. You do that. I don't do that. Hold on." Changsub holds his phone against his chest and raises his voice. "Hands off the porn mags unless you're going to buy them. You know the rules about ID."
The two teenagers at the end of the counter look terrified and disappear into the candy aisle. One of the fluorescent lights over Changsub's head flickers. He glances out the window to see if anyone has pulled up, but the parking lot is still empty except for his own broken down Civic and two bikes. He leans against the counter.
"Eunkwang?" Phone back against his ear again, he keeps his eyes on the teenagers, watching them move towards the back of the store. "Sorry. What were you saying about your pathetic love life?"
"It's not pathetic," Eunkwang whines. It's funny because as smart as Eunkwang is and as much as he's done with his life already, he still acts like a little kid half the time. "It's non-existent. And I'm not worried about it in that sense anyway, I wish you'd listen to me."
"I do listen to you," Changsub sighs. Tonight's been so boring. He almost wishes someone would try to steal something. "I know you don't care about getting back together with him. You just want to talk to him. But he doesn't want to talk to you. And you can talk to me about that, but you know how Minhyuk is."
"He's not going to do something just because you tell him to," Eunkwang says, quietly, like he's repeating something a teacher said, something he doesn't want to admit he already knows.
"That and he's going to get annoyed if I keep bringing it up. Which means he'll start actively ignoring you instead of what he's doing right now."
"Right now he's not likely to pick up the phone no matter who's calling. He's just...a little bit more resistant to you than to anyone else."
Eunkwang is quiet at that and that's never a good sign with him.
"I'm just thinking." Eunkwang thinking is also never a good sign. "Am I doing that thing where I'm not considering how he feels right now?"
"Yes, you got it." Changsub nods as the teenagers come towards the counter with more food than they're going to be able to eat. "You're impatient and you want to fix things with him right now, but he needs time."
"Okay...I can give him that. Thank you for being honest with me." And Changsub knows Eunkwang means that. It's what he needs and they're both well aware of it.
"Yeah, no problem." Changsub pauses and gestures to the kids to put their stuff on the counter. "By the way he's fucking around with some high schooler. I'll talk to you later."
There's a sort of indignant screech on the other end of the line, but Changsub only just hears it as he's hanging up and it sort of blends in with the beeping sound of ringing up items.
"If—um, if we don't have ID...it's just double the price, right?" One of the kids is sliding a Playboy towards him, looking hopeful. It's such an amateur choice, but Changsub smiles anyway.
"That's the rule," he says, and the boy hurries to get his money out.
The fluorescent light flickers above Changsub's head. He really needs to replace it.
"Why do you like me?" Sungjae asks. His voice is like a raindrop Minhyuk isn't expecting: it startles him and it's cold and he wants to put something over himself so that he can hide from it. He wants to go inside, but they're already in his room, on his bed. There's nowhere else to go.
He closes his eyes.
"I don't know," he says, because honestly he doesn't. He hasn't thought about it. He's known Sungjae for a long time, but not like this. This has only been a few weeks in the making. And Minhyuk almost never knows why he likes someone, not really.
"Is it like a sex...a sexual...thing?" Sungjae sounds nervous about that prospect. He's probably thinking about television shows and movies where relationships never work out unless one character can tell another why they like them poetically. If it's about the sex, even a little bit, then everything else is meaningless.
"Are you asking if I like your dick?" Minhyuk rolls over and reaches out, hand near Sungjae's hip, pushing the hem of his shirt up. "Because I think you know I do, so that isn't a very fair question." He pushes his fingers into the exposed skin of Sungjae's side, feels him move uncomfortably.
"M-Maybe not," Sungjae stutters, words feather-light, floating on air. It's so easy to get him hard. "But that's not exactly what I'm asking. I just—I want to know if that's all you like about me."
"No, not at all. I like this, too." Minhyuk kisses him like butterfly wings, their lips against each other for only a second before he pulls away. Then again and again and again. Then closer and every part of Sungjae opens wide for Minhyuk to fall into until they're both breathing hard.
"But is that really all?" Sungjae asks, stubborn even Minhyuk can feel his dick hard against his thigh, even when his breath is hot and heavy.
"No," Minhyuk admits, bringing his hand up to trace the top of Sungjae's cheekbone, shivering a little when Sungjae turns to kiss the palm of his hand. "You don't ask me what's wrong with me."
Sungjae stops for a second and looks at him. His lips are chapped and dry, but there's something about that that Minyuk likes.
"There's nothing wrong with you."
Minhyuk smiles and he feels it start in the pit of his empty stomach at the same time as he feels Sungjae's fingers pulling down the top of his boxers. He can't stop the dry heat from spreading upwards, though, a slow burning fire inside of him.
"What's wrong?" Sungjae asks, startled when he looks up again.
Minhyuk wipes at his eyes with the back of his hands, embarrassed. "Sorry," he says, quietly, "I haven't cried in—in a while."
"You know, just because I don't ask doesn't mean you can't tell me." Sungjae's sitting up and there's something Minhyuk likes about him doing that. It's stupid, Sungjae's younger than him, but he feels safer this way. "Like...you don't have to tell me anything, but you can tell me whatever you want to."
"Maybe later." Minhyuk turns away and looks at the wall. He feels Sungjae's hand on the small of his back, drawing little circles. It makes something in his stomach squirm. "Sungjae?"
"What happened to the sunflowers that used to be out back in your garden?"
"We—after my mom died—it was hard to see them when we couldn't see her anymore, you know?"
"Oh. I was just wondering. I always liked them."
It's hard for Minhyuk to wake up most afternoons. He doesn't even really aim for mornings anymore. He sleeps until weird times—six in the evening, three in the morning. He eats leftovers and avoids leaving the house for any reason, avoids leaving his room, too, if he can help it.
He likes his room because it's familiar in ways that the rest of the world isn't. He grew up in this room. He knows the peeling wallpaper like an old friend (or maybe even better than that, considering). The view out the window never changes. He has a vague memory from when he was very little of looking out this window. It was dark, it was night time—his bed has always been right against this wall. He's never thought about moving it, honestly.
There are stains on the carpet that mark events in his life. His fifteenth birthday when Eunkwang spilled Hawaiian Punch in front of his closet. The time when he was five and he stole his mom's lipstick and let it melt in the sunlight. His name is written on the wall behind his dresser in permanent marker.
This room is more his than anything else in the world.
He calls Hyunsik with shaking hands, the ringing of the phone harsh in his ears until it's abruptly cut off by a standard voice mail message, all cool and computerized. He hangs up before it can even prompt him to leave a message.
He's all ready—he took a shower and got dressed, he had a whole line of thought in mind, a hey we need to catch up and I need someone to talk to and don't you want to get out of that apartment kind of thing. But obviously today wasn't the day for that to happen.
Laying back he decides to count the hours and minutes until he hears the back door slide open downstairs.
He wakes up when there's a knock at his door and turns over as he mumbles, "Come in."
He doesn't have to look to see who it is.
"I think I'm alone," Minhyuk says, feeling the bed sink as extra weight is added to it. "I think everyone has given up on me."
Sungjae does something weird in response. He approaches the bed and pushes Minhyuk's hair to the side, presses a kiss to Minhyuk's temple. It's unlike him to be so—considerate. Not that he isn't nice, but he's a self-absorbed brat the majority of the time, really.
"I haven't," he says, softly, like it's a secret.
Minhyuk shifts so he can see him, all lit up in the golden glow of late afternoon. He half expects Sungjae to disappear, or for him to be startled awake and find out that this isn't happening at all. Which reminds him.
"I think I dreamed about something, but I can't remember what, exactly. You were there."
"What was I doing?" Sungjae asks, moving so he's sitting cross-legged, next to Minhyuk.
"Looking for something." Minhyuk pauses. "No, that's not right. I was looking for something, but you were helping me. No one else was. I was too afraid to ask anyone else for help."
"But you could ask me?" There's something about Sungjae that's a little unreal in this moment and Minhyuk feels silly, but he reaches out and presses the palms of their hands together. The weight of Sungjae's hand against his relaxes him.
"I didn't ask you for help, actually." He moves his hand slightly so their fingers aren't lined up, so he can interlace them. "You just knew that I needed it."
Sungjae smiles a little self-indulgently, like he thinks that sounds just like him. "What were we looking for?"
Minhyuk shakes his head. "I don't know."
It's quiet. Minhyuk hears himself swallow, hears the bed creak under Sungjae. "Well, I think we'll find it. It might take a little while, but we will."
Somehow, Minhyuk believes him.
(Lips around Sungjae's cock, it's not really a thank you, but it's as close as he can get right now. Because words stick in the back of his throat like something he can't quite swallow or spit out. Right now it's easier to show than it is for him to say.
It's easier to hold Sungjae's hips down with a controlling grip, to feel Sungjae's hands in his hair, pulling in a way that makes Minhyuk wince inwardly as his cheeks hollow out. And it doesn't feel bad, even when he has to keep Sungjae from fucking into his mouth too hard, to keep himself from feeling bruising pain at the back of his throat. It's easy—simple, even—to press his tongue against the underside of Sungjae's dick, hard against the pulse there while one hand slips against the skin of Sungjae's hipbone, while one of Sungjae's hands slips out of his hair and his fingers trail down the side of Minhyuk's face.
And the sounds Sungjae's making—they're needy and out of breath, like he's this close to falling off the edge, like Minhyuk's the only thing keeping him right where he is. Small whimpers and please, please, please, and the whole world falls out from beneath them. A bitter taste in Minhyuk's mouth.
But, honestly, he's never had anything sweeter.)
"I think I got all of it," Sohyun says, pushing around Ilhoon's hair with gloved fingers. "Does it look like I got all of it to you?"
"I can't see," Ilhoon reminds her and she has to laugh a little at his helplessness, at him blinking at his own reflection in the bathroom mirror. "I'm not that worried about it. You probably did. And if you didn't we can just do it again tomorrow."
"What makes you think I want to dye your hair again tomorrow?" Sohyun asks, incredulous as she peels off the cheap, clear gloves that came in the box of dye they bought at a convenience store an hour ago. "What makes you think I have the time?"
"All your other friends are busy and you aren't in school or working. You don't have anything else to do," Ilhoon replies, bluntly. She nearly smacks him with her gloves, but thinks better of it. Honestly, she likes the way he tells the truth when she asks for it. It makes it easier to believe him when it comes to things she's unsure about, like the way she looks and feels.
"Fine." Gloves in the garbage can, she puts her hands on his shoulders and leads him out into the hallway and towards her room. "But I do actually think I got everything."
They sit on her bed for the next forty-five minutes, with the television on, not really watching anything. Sohyun pretends not to notice the way he keeps shifting, like it's uncomfortable to sit down. In exchange, he ignores the way she picks at her nails and bites them—something she's supposed to have stopped doing.
When he goes to wash the dye out of his hair in the shower she stares into space. Her eyes catch the amber of her prescription bottles and she focuses on them without meaning to. She needs to get them refilled, but she doesn't feel like calling the pharmacy or talking to her mom about them.
Sometimes time moves too fast and other times it moves too slow. She doesn't want today to end.
The sound of running water fades away and soon Ilhoon's pushing her door open, doing a little spin.
"It looks good," she says, grabbing his hand.
"Yeah," he says, allowing himself to be pulled towards her, "it does, thank you. Really, I mean it. Thank you."
Sohyun goes quiet for a moment, then smiles. "You're welcome."
There's something very warm about having a best friend. She hasn't had one for a while.
She's almost drifted off to sleep when she hears Ilhoon whisper her name. She rolls over so she's on her stomach and can just see the faint shape of his figure, where he's laying on the ground. "Hm?"
"You know my sister's boyfriend? The one who drove me to group the other day?"
"I vaguely remember you mentioning him a few times, yeah. Why?"
"I kind of had sex with him."
Sohyun closes her eyes and thinks about whether she should sit up for this or not. She decides to stay where she is and keep her eyes closed. She can't see anything anyway. "Okay. How long has he been dating your sister?"
"Three years." Ilhoon answers that question fast, like ripping off a bandaid. It certainly stings.
"I know." His voice is full of that self-loathing tone that infects his words sometimes. "I know. But you know, he's the one—" He stops for a few seconds that stretch on forever. "He's the one who's dating her. And he told me months ago that he...liked me. He kissed me first! So don't you think—it's his fault, isn't it?"
"Well, was it like...mutual? You said he likes you, but do you like him, too?"
"Yeah," Ilhoon says, like it pains him to admit it. "I have since high school, but I always thought it was just one of those things. That happens sometimes, doesn't it? I never thought it would turn into anything like this."
"Really?" Sohyun can't help but smile a little. "You never even had one little fantasy about it?"
Ilhoon's laugh is hollow and it makes her stop smiling instantly. "I did, actually. But in my head, Minjoo always ended up happy somehow. In my head it didn't break my heart when he told me that he liked me, that he wanted to kiss me. It didn't make me feel like crying."
The ceiling above Sohyun's head has a water stain on it and she keeps her eyes on that. She's not sure she really understands what Ilhoon is saying or that she even sympathizes with him very much. What he's doing is, as far as she's concerned, incredibly stupid and mean. Honestly, she's angry with him, but—
But she knows what it's like to be angry with yourself. She knows that it doesn't help when other people are angry at you, too. So she rolls over in her bed and reaches out to where he's laying on the floor, finding his wrist and then his hand. It's warm in hers.
"I'm going to tell my friends what happened to me," she says, quietly. "Do you remember how that was one of the first things we learned? How we have to tell people what happened to us and be honest with them, even if it's in our own time. Do you remember that?"
"Yes," he replies. She wonders if he's thinking about the same day she is. The day when she sat across from him in the cafeteria of the hospital, eyes red and face tear stained, when he said hello to her and they talked, like nothing was wrong. He was the first person who paid attention to her and didn't spend an hour asking her what had happened.
"Well it's time for me to tell them now."
Seeing Hyuna is like seeing the sun. Sohyun stops where she is, about ten feet away from where Hyuna sits on the hood of her car in the parking lot of the diner, sunglasses in her hair and a drink in her hand, red lips around a green straw. It's hard to look right at her, but Sohyun forces herself to.
She's known Hyuna since preschool, since scrunchies and her Tweetie Bird toothbrush, since scrapes on her knees and recess in elementary school.
Other people treat Hyuna like a movie star and Sohyun supposes she doesn't blame them. Hyuna is glamorous in that irresistible sort of way. Her makeup always looks flawless, her smile pulls you in. But, to Sohyun, she's still the little girl who cried when she broke her arm climbing the tree at the park. She's the person she shared all her secrets with at sleepovers, under a canopy of glow in the dark stars.
She's the person Sohyun needs to talk to, before anyone else.
Sohyun says, "Hey," so softly that she almost thinks she's going to have to repeat herself before Hyuna looks up at her and then looks away just as fast.
In a way that makes Sohyun feel relieved. There was no hate in Hyuna's eyes, just apprehension, worry, trepidation. Like she isn't sure what to expect. And, really, Sohyun can't blame her for that.
"Jihyun-unnie is inside if you want to talk to her," Hyuna says, stirring her coffee with her straw and moving around restlessly.
"I want to talk to you." Sohyun moves closer and Hyuna's eyes meet hers for the first time and God she misses her. She's missed her this whole time. She loves Jihyun, loves Ilhoon, loves Jiyoon and Gayoon to the moon and back, but Hyuna—Hyuna has always been the most important person to her.
"About...what?" Hyuna asks, sounding curious, like she can't imagine why Sohyun would want to talk to her. That stings. But Sohyun has to remember that she doesn't know. She thinks Sohyun has been avoiding her for no reason, deliberately. She doesn't know that they took her phone away in the hospital, that she's been too embarrassed to contact her since then.
Sohyun's throat almost closes up and she finds herself looking down at her own feet, at her toes scrunching up in her sandals, tears swimming in her eyes.
"Sohyun?" Hyuna's voice is worried and suddenly she's grabbing at Sohyun's wrist, grip firm but warm. "Sohyun, what's wrong?" The plastic cup drops from her hands and now she's pulling Sohyung to her, hugging her tight. "What is it? What's wrong?"
And Sohyun opens up her mouth and she cries, hiccuping sobs wracking through her, because she realizes that, right now, the answer to that question is, "Nothing," for the first time in so long.
Hands grabbing at the back of Hyuna's shirt, she continues to cry, but it's with a feeling of finality, with a thought of I'm home now.
Nobody has ever made Sungjae feel very sure of anything.
Ilhoon's a good liar, but—whenever he'd say he was okay, really, he was fine, Sungjae didn't believe him. Even though he knew it was something Ilhoon was lying about for his own good, in a way, even then...he'd lay in bed unable to sleep, because. Well, because Sungjae knew, more than most people, how hard it would be to lose someone who meant that much to him.
Doctors don't even... Sungjae knows how long doctors go to school for. He knows that they deal with people every day, people who's loved ones are dying. But, still, when Sungjae stood there, watching his mom waste away, they weren't very good about making him feel comfortable. He's not stupid. He knows she would have died no matter what. But there was an ache in his bones, and no one even tried to ease it.
His dad is distant and busy and thinks that eating dinner together a few times a week is something he's supposed to do. It's never been something he wants to do. There's always something else: a call to be made, an e-mail to be sent, a bottle of whiskey to cradle in his arms while he cries alone. Sungjae feels bad for him, but they grieve separately, or not at all. It's just how things are.
So when Minhyuk says things that he's just supposed to believe implicitly, based on nothing more than the fact that Sungjae can sneak up the stairs to his bedroom in the dark easily now—well, Minhyuk will have to forgive him if he has trouble doing that.
But if Ilhoon's a good liar, then Sungjae's a better one when he wants to be.
He'll help Minhyuk, but he can't trust him. Not completely. Not yet.
Bagging things at the grocery store isn't Sungjae's dream job, exactly, but he doesn't mind it like other people do.
It's mindless, but not without method. He can zone out, but he still has something to occupy himself with. The breakdown and compartmentalization of a person's shopping cart is something he understands better than chemical bonds, and he was in AP Chem. Paper towels with bread and flour tortillas. Frozen dinner after frozen dinner, cold drinks from the freezer aisle, sold individually. A can of vegetables, of ravioli, of soup. From the conveyor belt to the cart, no one pays any attention to what he's doing so long as he does it fast and doesn't make any mistakes.
He's never been employee of the month or anything—he's not even sure they have one of those—he always has his blue polo shirt untucked and he doesn't listen well enough and he looks at the clock on his phone too much for that. But he does a good enough job. Most of the cashiers like him and a few even give him leftovers from their lunches if they're on break at the same time.
And there's Donggeun who he talks to when the lines have trickled down to nothing more than a few stragglers, the early afternoon sun in their eyes.
Donggeun is always in his own little world, so he gets that Sungjae is, too. Donggeun's that rare person who moved to a small town and switched schools late in life, leaving him as an outlier: the only person in town who doesn't know everyone's life story and vice versa.
Not that he's mysterious or anything. Donggeun's a little like, Sungjae thinks, a box of cereal. Everything that's in him is written on his side, broken down into percentages and amounts. And Sungjae's the kid eating a bowl for breakfast while he plays the mindless games on the back. Colorful and fun, but simple, Donggeun has become a constant in Sungjae's life that he'd honestly be a little lost without at this point.
So, of course, one afternoon he says, "I'm sort of seeing someone," as he pulls open a plastic bag and starts filling it up.
"Oh?" Donggeun's already got the cart to his left well-stocked, with only a case of beer to move from the end cap to the bottom of the cart.
"It's—yeah," Sungjae's a little hesitant to say. But, he has to remember, Donggeun is Donggeun, not anyone else. Not someone who's going to go home and tell their older sister who'll tell her best friend who'll tell her mom, who'll tell her her husband—until it gets all the way back to his dad, at which point the whole world will come crashing down on him. "It's my neighbor. This guy I've known since I was a kid."
Donggeun's eyebrows go up at that, but it's more of a cursory huh sort of look, rather than shock. "So he's someone we went to high school with?"
"Uh." Sungjae fumbles with the handles of a bag full of laundry detergent and sponges, getting a sharp look from the lady who's going to pay with her credit card. "Well, he went to the high school. But...no."
"So...wait—he's—how much older is he?"
Sungjae bags the last remaining items in front of him in silence, cans of dog food and tuna fish hitting each other with metallic thuds as his mind races to remember the answer to Donggeun's question.
Finally he just says, "Not that much older," and leaves it at that.
Donggeun drops it, quick and easy, even managing to make Sungjae laugh a few minutes later.
Good friends, Sungjae has found, don't make everything better—but they do help you forget how bad things are.
He and Minhyuk sit out back with citronella candles lit. Minhyuk reaches a hand out and Sungjae passes the joint they're sharing back to him as he tilts his head back to look at the stars, smoke circling up towards them from in-between his lips.
"How old are you?"
There's a wry sort of laugh from Minhyuk at that, almost self-deprecating (and that's Minhyuk all over these days).
"Why?" The soft sound of Minhyuk's lips coming together as he inhales. Sungjae has never seen stars look this bright. "I mean, if it matters that much, I'm twenty-three. But why are you worried about that all of a sudden? You're eighteen, it's fine." Sungjae glances at him just in time to see him shrug and lean forward. He's always moved like that—effortlessly. Sungjae has always been jealous of him.
"I know, it's not that." Sungjae squirms in his patio chair and pulls the sleeves of his jacket down from his elbows. It's starting to get cold out. "I just...realized I didn't know. And I thought that was sort of weird. And I wanted to know, anyway."
Minhyuk's quiet for a minute, like he's considering Sungjae's words. "It is sort of weird. I've known you since I moved in here in middle school, but I guess I don't really know you that well."
"Yeah," Sungjae mumbles, sinking down in his chair. "And, well, I don't know. I guess I just feel like maybe we should change that. It's probably not a big deal to you, I know, but honestly it bothers me. There were a few people I dated in high school, but that was different. It always felt superficial, and maybe—maybe I'm getting ahead of myself here, but this. It doesn't feel like that."
"Shit, Sungjae." Minhyuk coughs out a laugh and waves his hand in front of his face to make the smoke there dissipate. "You think too much. And don't glare at me like that." He shoves Sungjae's shoulder lightly. "I don't mean it in a bad way, not really, so don't get all defensive. It's just—shit, we haven't even fucked, you know?"
"I'm more than well aware of that," Sungjae says, trying his best to sound annoyed. It's hard, though, when he's fighting a smile.
"We can change that any time you want," Minhyuk says, and Sungjae knows he means it, which makes heat rise from the pit of his stomach, makes his legs shake with nerves. "But, look, I get what you're saying. I might not totally feel the same way, but I get it, so—shoot."
The joint is being pushed into Sungjae's hands as he realizes that Minhyuk is telling him to ask something, that he's indulging him.
"Can we go back and forth?" he asks, chewing at the inside of his mouth and taking the joint with no intention of smoking it. "Maybe—we both have to answer the question?"
"Sure." Minhyuk shrugs and leans back, looking at ease. "Go for it."
"What...did you want to be when you were little?"
"A singer, easy. You?"
"So, how's that looking now?"
"About as good as your record contract does. Your turn."
"Ha. Okay, you got me. Ah... If you were on a deserted island and could only bring one thing—"
"Wait, I'm already on the deserted island? How can I bring something if I'm already there?"
"Jesus—fine. If at some time in the future you were going to be on a deserted island and you could only bring one thing, what would you bring?"
"Oh fuck you, that's cheating."
It's the first time Sungjae's seen Minhyuk laugh like he can't stop, the two of them with nothing between them and the stars above them.
When Sungjae was little he really did want to go to space. He wanted to be able to look down on the earth and realize how small it was when put into perspective. He wanted to know what that kind of homesickness felt like, he wanted the emptiness of space to eat as his insides. He wanted to be missed and he wanted to come back home to people who would hold him close and treat him like something special.
But now—now he's thinking that, maybe, he's found that right and here and a right now. And he didn't have to go very far to find it at all.
part three (tbp).
a/n: part three will see the return of ilhoon, hyunsik, and joo's storyline, in case anyone was wondering.
also, i just wanted to say thank you to everyone who's given me feedback about this fic, whether it's been on here or on twitter or on ask.fm or tumblr or wherever, i really appreciate it! you guys are so sweet and i love you all! ♡