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04 January 2012 @ 04:50 pm
tsyonshi: Home is Where the Heart Is (1/2)  
Title: Home Is Where the Heart Is
Author: tsuyonshi
Pairing/Focus: Yoochun/Changmin
Rating: NC-17
Final word count: 13,823
Summary: AU. A simple story of love, of ups and downs, and of what happens when two people just belong together.

Changmin came out to his parents three weeks after high school graduation, clutching Yoochun’s hand in his own clammy one and trying not to shake.

He had no home the next day.

They met at the public library at the start of Changmin’s senior year in high school. He was swamped with a research project that went nowhere thanks to a serious lack of information on the subject, and had decided to stop bothering with his school’s tiny, unhelpful repertoire and switch to the major league of research. The public library was of a much bigger help, and he was able to find a relatively big pile of books that each had at least a chapter to do with his project.

He was carrying them all to the copier when he ran straight into Yoochun, neither of them really watching where they were going; the books fell to the floor and both bent down to pick them up, apologizing profusely.

Changmin quieted down after a moment, then looked up at the stranger when their fingers brushed against each other. He had long, slender fingers, his nails neatly cut short—it was the only part of his appearance that wasn’t considerably messy.

“You don’t have to help me, you know,” he said quietly as their eyes met, and quickly looked back down.

To Yoochun, he seemed like a really shy boy, the way he spoke so politely, but with a hint of reserve, like he lacked confidence. Later, he’d always say that’s what made him drawn to Changmin—complete with the juvenile air to his traits that contrasted with the distinctly adult way he’d stare. He was still barely a man himself then; that’s why this boy, not even eighteen, made him feel like the immature one.

He shook his head and they stood at the same time, Yoochun handing Changmin the books he’d picked up. It should’ve ended there, but it didn’t: Yoochun watched his back and thought to himself, I can’t not say anything. I can’t let this boy go.

It was like a part of him knew he had something to learn from him.

“Excuse me,” he tried, as loud as he could, being in a library. Changmin turned to him, shifting the weight of the books in his arms, and his expression stayed closed, neutral. Something told Yoochun he only smiled when it mattered; that he was barely expressive even when he had his mind running, and he was right—Changmin was very curiously wondering what this guy could possibly want. “Would you like to have a cup of coffee, or something?”

Yoochun’s own unsure tone surprised him; it wasn’t like him to lack the confidence to ask someone out, and he felt even more thrown off with the way Changmin looked at him; so blank, so uninterested.

He probably had a lot on his mind, the older boy figured. It wasn’t hard to imagine, seeing a teenage boy with an enormous pile of books like this: schoolwork, first romances, identity crises, parents. Yoochun was barely out of them too, after all. He’d had his own issues.

“I’m a little busy,” Changmin replied in a neutral tone, holding up the books as best as he could. Yoochun nodded.

“I’m in no hurry; it’s just Friday afternoon, after all. I’ll be sitting at the table by the window over there if you change your mind when you’re done,” he stuttered, mentally berating himself for his clumsiness. He’d only been around Changmin for two minutes and the boy was already turning him over and out. He pointed to the table awkwardly and went to sit, leaving Changmin to his work and his thoughts.

I never said I didn’t want to, he thought, briefly considering saying those words out loud. You could’ve offered to help me, he mentally added as he went back to his task. He felt Yoochun watch him the whole time, as if he was afraid Changmin would quietly run out to avoid him when he was done.

Which he didn’t, and had never even contemplated. Once his backpack was filled with copies of every useful chapter of every book he’d found, he went over to the table Yoochun was sitting at, immersed in a book that he shoved into his bag, too fast for Changmin to see, when he noticed the boy walking towards him.

His face lit up like he was delighted to see Changmin, reminding him of a little boy on Christmas, and he stood up, slinging his bag over his shoulder.

“You changed your mind, after all?” he asked gingerly, and that’s when Changmin gave his first smile—just an amused smirk, really.

“I never said I didn’t want to,” the younger boy finally said, making Yoochun bite his lip awkwardly, like he felt absolutely stupid for not having noticed that he’d never actually been turned down. The look on Changmin’s face changed ever-so-slightly, from amused to soft and almost merciful; to say mutual attraction was there from their first meeting is an understatement. It wasn’t just attraction—neither would say it was love at first sight, far from it, but there was this connection, this magnetism that made them feel at home when they looked at each other.

After a moment of Yoochun staying frozen in place, Changmin spoke up, surprising the both of them. “I’m Changmin, by the way. Do you know any good places?”

Yoochun seemed to finally snap out of it at the sound of his voice, his face lighting up as he led the way outside and repeated Changmin’s name almost to himself, as if committing it to memory. “Yoochun. I know just the place, no worries.”

As they walked to a small, cozy coffee house where one of Yoochun’s friends worked, they were mostly silent, only speaking up to ask each other the basics: Changmin was seventeen (about to turn eighteen, he insisted), in senior year, and planning to major in psychology; Yoochun was twenty, had never gone to college, and worked as a bartender in an upscale jazz bar downtown. He had to work at seven, but still decided to spend a bit of time with Changmin.

“I guess I’m someone who lives in the moment,” he told him when Changmin insisted that he didn’t have to keep him company now if he had to get ready for work. He ordered deli sandwiches and lattes for the two of them—hazelnut for Changmin, vanilla for himself. “I just felt that if I didn’t ask you out, I’d be making a huge mistake.”

Changmin couldn’t help but look at him surprised. “So that’s you...asking me out?”

His tone of voice made it sound as if he couldn’t believe those words. For a second, Yoochun wondered if that reaction came from the fact that Changmin was straight; but it couldn’t be, he convinced himself. Otherwise his reaction would’ve been much harsher. “Are you not, ah—interested?”

“No, not at all!” Changmin said hurriedly. “I mean, I’m just not used to...attractive people asking me out. I’m kind of a nerd, if you hadn’t noticed.”

Yoochun smiled. “Those things don’t matter much when you’re out of high school, Changmin. I guess you’re not fit to be dating someone your own age; seems to me like you’re much too mature for that. All those social classifications...boy, I hated them. In a year or two, how you spend your time isn’t going to really matter anymore. But I just hope that by then you’ll have found someone who liked you for what you are when people didn’t matter to look,” he said softly, then gave a nervous laugh. “Sorry, I’m talking too much, aren’t I?”

Changmin shook his head, and watched as their orders were brought over, captivated by Yoochun’s fingers. They moved with an almost accidental grace, as if more experienced than the rest of his whole being. To Changmin, it could only mean one things. “Do you play an instrument?”

Yoochun stopped mid-sip and set his cup down, glancing at him with a surprised look on his face. “Piano. How’d you guess?”

“Easy. Your fingers—your whole appearance gives an air of artistic I-don’t-give-a-shit, but your fingers are really neat. The way your hands move is a lot more refined than the rest of you, so it kinda gives it away.”

Yoochun grinned, definitely impressed; Changmin’s interest in him increased tenfold. He was a sucker for the musically inclined, having been in a choir since he was little—he’d always loved music. He usually didn’t let himself grow infatuated so fast, but with Yoochun there in front of him, it seemed like it couldn’t be helped; he was handsome, nice, and played piano—and there was something about him, just in his aura, that drew Changmin in like a spider’s web.

He’d been practical and had followed his logic his whole life, and he could see Yoochun was everything but that already: he had the air of a dreamer, of someone who saw beyond everything Changmin relied on, and yet, behind that fearless strength, he felt like Yoochun held in more sadness than he should. It was weird feeling like this about someone older, to him, but this made him want to protect him, in a way—or just to comfort him as best as he could, at least. Maybe it was a little naive of him to think like that, but he really couldn’t help it when he looked at Yoochun, for some reason.

They talked a lot over coffee and their makeshift dinner at the coffee house, about their aspirations and favourite music and thoughts on the world. Sometimes, they’d grow quiet and look out the window, Yoochun wondering if Changmin was so mature he’d think he was the most immature twenty-year-old in Korea while Changmin worried that Yoochun would think he was too childish because of the age difference.

When they were almost done with their sandwiches, Yoochun’s friend, a fabulously gay little thing called Jaejoong went to sit with them, and proceeded to interrogate Changmin like a parent who was meeting his daughter’s boyfriend for the first time.

“Jae, stop it and go to work,” Yoochun muttered through gritted teeth after a moment, afraid his friend would scare Changmin away. And he did, in a sense; if he was friends with someone so attractive, Changmin knew Yoochun wouldn’t bother with a silly high school student.

And Jaejoong’s scrutinizing expression made him feel strangely inadequate.

When he finally left, both Yoochun and Changmin breathed different sighs of relief, and Yoochun smiled, telling the other to forget what had just happened; that Jaejoong always got a kick out of torturing other people, especially his best friend. Soon they were done eating and, after Yoochun paid for the two of them, they took a walk together, waiting until it was time for Yoochun to go to work to walk over to the jazz bar.

They stood right outside the door until two minutes before his shift started and bid each other goodbye awkwardly, a strange kind of tension hanging in the air between them. Once inside, Yoochun’s boss—a practical sort of man, who knew he was gay and had no problem with it—asked him who the boy was.

“Just someone I want to kiss,” Yoochun answered almost in a trance, getting behind the counter. He poured his boss a scotch on the rocks with a twist, his usual, and got an enigmatic smile in return.

“Ah, youth. I hope you gave him your phone number, or at least got his. When people like that show up in your life, it’s better not to let them get away.”

Yoochun smiled, rubbing the back of his neck self-consciously. “Yeah, we exchanged numbers. I don’t think I could let him get away even if I wanted to, boss.”

They kissed for the first time on a cold, rainy day in late October. Over the last few weeks, they’d grown aware of their feelings for each other, and yet Yoochun insisted that they take it slow—it made Changmin a little frustrated, sometimes questioning whether or not the other really liked him, but soon he understood that it was because Yoochun liked him that he was waiting. They’d meet as often as they could and make the best out of it, staying together until right before Yoochun had to go to work, steadily getting to know each other.

Even then, it happened all of a sudden. There had been no warning at all, nothing that said it would happen. Changmin had skipped his last class to spend more time with Yoochun until he had to go to work—which even Yoochun didn’t approve of, but he could definitely afford it—and after spending an hour or two in the park near Changmin’s school, it began to rain.

It started just as a drizzle so they decided to stay there, but soon it became harder, until it was pouring. On impulse, Yoochun grabbed his hand and started running out into the street, their laughs mixing and reverberating under the sound of the rain.

“There!” Changmin exclaimed when he saw a small space between two buildings, pulling Yoochun with him so they could take shelter under it. They took a moment to catch their breaths, still laughing, looking at each other almost awkwardly as their bodies were almost squeezed together by the walls.

After a moment, Yoochun’s laughter died down and he reached up to shake water out of Changmin’s hair. “You’re all wet,” he smiled.

“I bet.”

Silence hung between them as Yoochun’s hands became still, pausing there in his hair for a moment until they trailed down, one of them settling on the back of Changmin’s neck and the other cupping the side of his face. He looked up into his eyes once, almost as if asking for permission, before leaning in and pressing their lips together softly. The kiss moved slow and careful, tentative, Changmin’s whole body almost completely frozen in place.

He hadn’t expected his first kiss to be like this. Over the years, he’d prepared himself for it to be a girl, messy, awkward and sticky; and yet, this made so many feelings rise up inside him he wasn’t sure which one to focus on. He could feel his face heat up and his heart pounding against his chest like a wild animal, growing nervous when he realized he was being as good a kisser as a corpse, urging himself to kiss back.

And that’s when he finally stopped thinking and went along with it.

“Is it illegal if I ask a minor to be my boyfriend?” Yoochun asked, pulling away slightly.

Changmin gave a small smile. “I’m not a big law nut, but I think we should be alright.”

“So is that a positive answer?”

“You didn’t even have to ask.”

This time, it was Changmin who pulled him in for another kiss.

When the rain stopped, Yoochun decided to call in sick for work, keeping Changmin’s hand clasped securely in his until the younger boy jerked it out of his grasp, distancing himself from him and looking down at his feet.

“Changmin? What’s wrong?” he asked in a worried tone, frowning at him.

“Classmate,” he muttered, glancing up momentarily to see a girl from school walk inside a small bakery on the street. He breathed a small sigh of relief, but didn’t reach out to take Yoochun’s hand again. “Let’s not...be too open about this anymore, okay? Especially not around here.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Yoochun said softly, rubbing the back of his neck. “Is it creepy if I ask you to come have dinner at my place? We can order in a pizza and watch a movie or something.”

His tone was nonchalant, but Changmin could feel uncertainty in his voice that was more than a little uncharacteristic of him and that brought a smile to his lips. He nudged his shoulder with his own, sliding his hands in his pockets as he looked at him in amusement. “Stop asking if it’s this or that, will you? Crank it up a notch; be the flirty guy I know. You can get anyone you want into bed when you have your sexy bartender charm on, so why aren’t you trying it on me?”

“Because you’re not someone I can get—”


“You want to—”


“Isn’t that a lot in one day?”

Changmin shrugged, smiling at him. “I’ve always been precocious compared to kids my age, it’s about time I catch up in that area.”

“But you don't have to feel forced just because everyone else at school is doing it. I’m older, I’m in no hurry—”

“Yoochun. Just shut up and take me home, will you? Save the arguments for when things are really about to happen.”

When Changmin was speaking like this, sometimes Yoochun felt that he was the younger one, and he had to oblige. But he didn’t give up on trying to make Changmin change his mind when they were home. The younger flopped down on the couch and stared up at Yoochun with a smirk as he recited a well-thought out speech about feeling forced and the freedom to wait and things moving too fast because they’d only just had their first kiss less than an hour ago. Changmin only let him chatter like a monkey for about five minutes and eventually grabbed his wrist to pull him down on the couch next to him.

“I’m only going to say this once, so listen up, okay? First of all, you made me wait for like, a million years. Second of all, I’m a guy. I don’t care about this whole being ready mumbo jumbo that girls use on guys and no, I’m not going to tell a court that you pressured me into having sex with you. Third of all—I just want it, okay?”

Suddenly, his speech died down a little and he cast his gaze downwards, looking at his hands and hoping Yoochun didn’t see the blush that covered his cheeks (he did). “And I like you. So even if I wasn’t so damn horny I’d still want this.”

Yoochun looked at him for a moment, as if trying to see if he was telling the truth, only for Changmin to get tired of it. He snorted and pushed his face away, settling deeper into the couch as he tried to kick the other off (and succeeded).

“How about you stop being all...weird and go order that pizza? You just totally killed the mood. ”

“It’s physically impossible for me to kill the mood, baby. C’mon,” Yoochun said, crawling back onto the couch and bringing his face close to Changmin’s, making lewd eyes at him.

“You’re not putting anything of yours in me if it isn’t food first.”

“So a banana—”

“Just order the damn pizza, please.”

Yoochun smiled, tilting Changmin’s face towards him and kissing him softly, unspoken words on his lips—you don’t have to do this. When he pulled away, Changmin’s fingers wrapped around the collar of his shirt and tugged, pulling him in for another kiss. It was clumsy, unpolished, and Yoochun liked the intensity; Changmin kissed exactly the way he was, eager to get to the next step, pushing forward but shy in a way that he tried to hide with makeshift confidence. Yoochun didn’t know if other people noticed it, but he took pride in seeing through the walls Changmin built around himself, convincing himself that he was the right one for him.

“I’m hungry,” he mumbled against Yoochun’s lips after a moment, followed by an obnoxious rumble of his stomach. They exchanged another quick peck as Yoochun slid off the couch and went to get the phone, standing in the kitchen with it pressed between his ear and his shoulder as he ordered two large pizzas with Changmin’s favourite toppings, and smiled at him from where he was standing.

Yoochun wasn’t the only one out of the two of them who thought he was the right one.

The next big step after this was a bit before Christmas, and in Yoochun’s romantic mind, was a little bit anticlimactic, and he beat himself up over his spontaneity for a whole two minutes afterwards.

That is, he just couldn’t help the quick, sudden words that got out of his mouth in the middle of a laugh. Changmin was helping him decorate the small tree in his apartment when he grabbed a small angel figure and started talking about how ridiculous it was to use things like that as decoration in this day and age, going as far as to start making it talk, his voice high-pitched and childish. Yoochun laughed so hard his cheeks and stomach hurt, the sound of it so contagious Changmin started to laugh as well.

It was in that instant, that simple moment, that Yoochun was sure of it, feeling it bubble up inside his chest just from looking at Changmin’s eyes squint and go mismatched from laughing. He didn’t have to think once or twice when it slipped out.

“I love you,” he said suddenly, and Changmin doubled over laughing. Luckily enough, Yoochun knew he was only laughing because he was both incredibly happy and nervous at the same time. He was aware that he would probably wait a while until he’d hear the same words coming from his mouth—but somehow, he didn’t wait as long as he thought he would. It took less than two weeks for it to happen, two weeks of “I love kimchi” and “fnfschhh” until Changmin was finally able to say it on the day before Christmas, around half a candy cane that Yoochun ended up stealing from his mouth with a happy smile.

“Get out of my house!” his father boomed, pointing to the door. Changmin had never seen him so angry in his entire life, so much that it made him jump and take a step back. Yoochun, however, stepped forward, as if to protect him.

“Father, I’m sure—”

“Shut up! Don’t you dare call me that word. He is not my son!”

Changmin didn’t make a sound, but one look at his face and Yoochun knew how much those words had hurt him even though he tried to keep a stoic expression. He knew that he was convinced that he was an adult now, capable of making his own choices, and whose aspirations would never change depending on his sexuality—but he was still in pain, that was for sure.

“Don’t worry, I won’t stay in here much longer,” Changmin said coldly, tugging on Yoochun’s wrist as he turned his back to his fuming father and sobbing mother. “I’m going to come get my things while the house is empty once I find a place to live. Can I just go get a few clothes to get me by for the next few days? I can’t go apartment hunting in sweatpants.”

His father said nothing, but this time, it was his mother who spoke up. “Changmin-ah—”

“I’ll be out in five minutes.”

True to his words, he went straight to his room, shoving clean clothes in a duffel bag, along with his glasses, a few books, and all the cash he had kept scattered around his room randomly over the years; Christmas money, birthday money, graduation money, everything he hadn’t gotten to deposit in an account.

“I have enough to get a cheap apartment, I think,” he told Yoochun, running a hand through his hair. He had so much on his mind, calculating, planning, that he barely acknowledged the other, anger keeping him away from panicking just yet. But Yoochun knew it would all come down soon enough—Changmin was more fragile than he let on.

Just as they were about to leave, Changmin’s mother stopped them by the front door, wiping at her eyes with a handkerchief. “Since when?”

“Beginning of senior year. I’ve been lying too much,” Changmin answered shortly, and she nodded, tearing her eyes away from her son to look at Yoochun.

“Do you love him?”

“Very much.”

She only nodded and pulled the both of them into her arms, holding them tightly without a word. The second she let go, Changmin turned away, went straight through the door, and didn’t look back. All through the bus ride back to his apartment, Yoochun glanced at him every once in a while, but his face was stoic, calm, like he was going to find a solution and was sure of it. But he knew it was just a matter of time, and it really was.

When they got home, Changmin sank into the couch and leaned his head on the back of it, closing his eyes as he ran his hands down his face—and Yoochun could almost see him sag, like the weight of the whole world had just dropped on his shoulders. He silently walked over to him and sat down, wrapping his arms around him and pulling him against his chest.

“W-w-what do I do, Yoochun,” he asked, voice barely above a whisper. He’d never seen Changmin look so fragile, so scared; for the first time, he really did look like an eighteen-year-old, and Yoochun started to feel like it was his fault that this was happening to him. A kid just out of high school should be begging his parents to let him get an apartment, not be thrown out without any idea what to do or how to survive all alone, he thought.

“We’ll find a way. Together. I promised.”

“I don’t have a job, I—I never worked in my entire life. If I even do find an apartment, how am I supposed to pay rent? I can’t even afford college by myself, and what if my father decides to get his money back for the first semester? I won’t even have anywhere to go.”

By the time he’d finished his sentence, his voice had broken and he finally looked up at Yoochun with tear-filled eyes, and that too was something new for Yoochun. He couldn’t stand seeing him so shaken up, and he wasn’t going to let him be scared all alone.

“Listen to me,” he said, voice soft but firm as he pulled away and shifted so he could put one hand on Changmin’s shoulder, the other cupping his face. “For now, you’re not homeless. You can stay here just like you have so many times already, and I’m going to help you find a job and an apartment. Until you do, I’m going to take care of you, alright? I promise you that; you’re not alone in this, and I’m going to fix what I’ve done. Try to think positively, okay? This is your new life. I’ve been telling you to be more confident since I met you, haven’t I? You’re an amazing person and I don’t see why anyone would choose not to hire you or give you a place to live. But for strangers to believe in you, you have to believe in yourself.”

Changmin only nodded, closing his eyes as he buried his face in Yoochun’s shoulder, trying to hold back his tears. Yoochun’s words had reassured him, but they didn’t make his father’s words any less painful—and yet, he never admitted that his family was the reason he cried himself to sleep that night.

Yoochun sighed as he put the last of the boxes in the back of the van he borrowed from Jaejoong—who’d bought it to be a step closer to accomplishing his lifelong dream of becoming a soccer mom—and watched as Changmin stood on the porch, staring at the envelope in his hands.

“Min,” he called out softly, not wanting to rush him. “Your dad’s about to come back.”

When Changmin didn’t budge, he locked up the van and climbed up the stairs to join him, putting a hand on his back. “We have to go now.”

“I know,” Changmin replied, feeling the outline of his house keys through the paper before finally taking a deep, shaky breath and sliding it in the mailbox. This time, as he followed Yoochun to the car, he did throw one last look over his shoulder at the house he grew up in, and that he was no longer allowed to call his home. His throat felt tight, but he willed himself to be strong, promising that this was the last time he was looking back.

“Are you okay?”

He nodded, managing a small smile at Yoochun as he sat down in the passenger seat and buckled up. “I’m fine. Just didn’t expect that my first ever moving day would feel like robbing the house I’m not welcome in anymore.”

“Do you think galbi will make you feel a little better on the way to bring back the van to Jaejoong? Moving days are meant to be celebrated and that’s what I’m going to do with you.”

“It might help,” Changmin answered, smiling a little wider, and Yoochun knew it was all going to be okay.

Later, once they’d moved all of his boxes into Yoochun’s apartment and were ready to go out to eat, Yoochun disappeared into his bedroom saying he needed to get his wallet (even though Changmin saw it poking out of his back pocket) and came back with a small box.

“Happy moving day.”

“What is it?” he asked, opening the box and looking up at Yoochun when he glimpsed at the key inside. He had one identical to it in his pockets. “But I already have your apartment key.”

“See, now that’s where you’re wrong. That key you have is our spare. This one is your key. To our apartment,” Yoochun said, smiling. “I checked a few things, talked to my landlord, and you can officially move in as soon as you sign the papers. I explained the situation to him and he’s cool with it even though you’re a minor—said he’ll figure something out about that parental approval crap.”


“I know we said we’d find you an apartment, but you know what? I don’t want you to when you could live here. I know it’s a big step when we’re not even that serious, but given the situation, it makes sense, don’t you think? You don’t need to waste your money on a whole apartment, electricity, food, and all that jazz when you’re supposed to be in college studying brilliantly without bothering with a time-consuming job. We can just split rent and it’ll be all okay.”

Changmin didn’t speak for a moment, and Yoochun began to worry about his reaction until the other beamed, arms coming to wrap around him while he clutched the box in his hand. It dug into Yoochun’s back, but he chose to just endure it for now.

“Thank you so much,” Changmin said quietly, relief clear in his voice.

“Don’t mention it. I love you, roomie.”

(During his very first week of college, Changmin met Kim Junsu, agriculture major extraordinaire, by chance—but the rest of their friendship didn’t really have anything to do with chance. Finding in each other similar interests and a particular sense of camaraderie, they spent more and more time together, but Changmin couldn't let himself relax completely around Junsu, the same way he wasn't always quite himself around his classmates because of his secret—because after what had happened with his own father, Yoochun was his secret.

And one day, Junsu proved Changmin that he wasn't quite as stupid and innocent as he let him believe; he simply leaned forward when Changmin was talking about his “girlfriend” and, with a knowing smile, said, “You don't really have a girlfriend, do you?”

Changmin started at him for a long moment, suddenly feeling trapped, until Junsu burst out laughing and told him not to lie anymore. At this point, it was obvious that Changmin couldn't hide and run away from this one, so he sighed in defeat and told Junsu everything about his current situation.

“But please don't tell anyone about this,” he added at the end.

Junsu nodded solemnly. “Cross my heart and hope to die. I'll go along with your girlfriend story, I promise.”

The next thing Changmin learned about Junsu was that the older boy had quite an extensive social network: in less than a week, every single first year psychology student knew Changmin by name, and together they had all labelled him as the guy in the major who lived with his super hot, older barmaid girlfriend. He was the hero, everyone's buddy, and had made more friends in a week thanks to Junsu's almost-rumour than he did in all of high school.

To express his gratitude, Changmin bought him new soccer shoes. And it wasn't even Christmas.)

Now, life has slowed down a little. Two years, and the sadness of losing a home has slowly morphed into gaining a new one, and Changmin feeling like this is where he belonged all along. What used to be Yoochun’s apartment is now theirs, and it both looks and feels different, a little more cluttered because Changmin is even more stubborn than Yoochun is a neat freak; I’m a student, Changmin will always say, I study all day so I can one day contribute to this fucked up society in the form of curing people’s depressions, which are only a form or stress created from capitalism and corporative hedonism, so I don’t have time to clean up all the time.

When Changmin brings out this speech, Yoochun will answer: you’re a psych student who bitches about Freud constantly and tries to use his future profession and big words as an excuse to get out of doing the dishes. Then, he’ll kiss him, always a secret admirer of his intelligence, and they’ll end up cleaning the apartment together singing Kokomo, rewriting the lyrics to something raunchier every single time.

They fight and get on each other’s nerves from time to time but the good moments outweigh the more unpleasant by a ridiculous advantage; those simple things are what makes them the happiest, make them feel right, and the more time Changmin spends with Yoochun, the more he loves him. Being the younger one, he’s always respected Yoochun with a kind of masked precaution, but now, those feelings have evolved to true admiration for everything he is—admiration that he knows is way past puppy love. It comes with every story Yoochun’s ever told him about his past, about what he’s always wanted, things that he didn’t know before they moved in together.

There were so many things they didn’t know about each other back then, and things could’ve gone extremely sour from there, but instead, they’re happy, and that’s all that matters. At least for now.

Because of course, nothing can ever stay perfect for too long. One month, they find that they barely make rent. The next, they have to spend less on groceries to prevent being short on money. On the third month, when it starts getting cold and they have to sleep huddled up to each other because they have no money to spend on heating, they have to face the fatality of being too broke to function, and they both go job hunting.

“Let’s both find something fun,” Yoochun says, kissing Changmin’s cheek as he runs a hand through his hair, sighing at the bills and bankbooks lying open in front of them. “And no more than fifteen hours a week for you. I read somewhere that working more than fifteen is damageable for a student’s grades.”

Changmin arches an eyebrow. “Since when do you know how to read?” The question has no real bite in it, more affectionate than anything else, and that’s why Yoochun only laughs, knowing that this is his way of expressing more things than he can say in honest words. He knows he’s worried, that it’s the first time in his life he’s had to face the hardships of being poor, and that it scares him; but Yoochun, he’s used to it, and he knows that something this small is only a passing episode in their lives together.

He’s seen much, much worse, and he’s gotten out of it just fine, so it doesn’t scare him. He wraps an arm around Changmin and nuzzles his jaw lovingly, kissing his neck. “You worry about becoming the best psychologist in Korea, I worry about finances, alright? We’ll be just fine.”

Changmin only nods.

Quickly enough, they both find suitable jobs, which surprises Changmin but reassures him a little. He manages to land a few hours at the university library, helping in filing books and tutoring students after class hours when he doesn’t have to get up too early the next day. It’s easy, he’s in his environment, and since it’s a job at the university, he doesn’t have to deal with rigid bosses and has hours that match his schedule, so he can study and do his schoolwork without any problems.

Yoochun, though, doesn’t find the perfect job like he does. At first, it looks perfect. He comes home bright-eyed and tells Changmin he got hired at a music shop close to the bar, proud that he can also spend time in his environment. But soon, he discovers that inside this shop is a microcosm of asshole sellers and managers that act like they can easily trample over their subordinates, like they’re actually something in the world. They treat Yoochun like shit, give him orders, make him hate the very second he clocks in every day. Sometimes he wonders why such little people could bring themselves to act like this with someone just because they’re a newbie at a job that, really, doesn’t require much experience in anything—but then, he realizes, it’s because they’re little people that they act like this.

His only decent co-worker, Yunho, tells him all about them after a while. He’s gained their respect, knows them and their weaknesses better than their own girlfriends do, and tells them all to Yoochun, in his own way of cheering him up. One of them is a singer who’s been turned down by too many companies and agencies to count; another, a guitarist who was in a car accident at twenty-three and hasn’t been to move his fingers quite like he used to since then, and they’ve all piled up failure after failure.

“This is why they act like this with you. You’re young, you’re handsome, and it shows in your face that you have a future. It drives them crazy that you’re everything they can’t be,” he says.

Yoochun looks at Yunho silently, doesn’t mention that thanks to the fact that he’s juggling two jobs and trying to support his boyfriend through college, he hasn’t picked up a pen or touched a piano in weeks. Instead, he asks, “And what about you? What are your shattered dreams that got you here?”

“I’m not quite like them. Not a musician, just a dancer,” he says, turning and lifting up the bottom of his pants to show a long, clear scar that runs behind his ankle all the way up to the middle of his shin, the line where all the ghosts of his past hide.


Over the course of the next few months, things don’t get better. Sure, they don’t have trouble paying rent or Changmin’s tuition or food and electricity, but they still need their jobs, and Yoochun becomes more and more tired. They leave the apartment together in the morning when they can (three mornings out of five, Changmin wakes up and Yoochun has already gone to work because he opens at the shop), and when Yoochun gets back home from the bar in the middle of the night, Changmin is fast asleep. He crawls into bed as carefully as he can, but it always wakes him up a little, and he starts to catch on with what’s happening at work when he’s exhausted but still holds on tight to him like a teddy bear, awake and his mind running fast.

Sometimes, he hears him cry, not because he’s hurt—he’s stronger than that, but Changmin knows how much the tiredness is wearing him down. It’s a weight that presses down on his shoulders, barely there to the eye but evident when it’s someone you love. He hates it, hates seeing the gleam in his eyes disappear a little more every day because of him; when Yoochun drops like a dead weight beside him at night, all he can think of is that’s his fault, his own damn fault for making his father react like this and throw him out, his fault for saying yes to living with Yoochun, his fault for agreeing to the idea of working so little while Yoochun has to manage two jobs. He berates himself for it every day, but he doesn’t say a word about it because he knows the way Yoochun cares for him is stronger than he is hard-headed.

Which is saying a lot.

On a Tuesday afternoon, the shop is empty aside from Yunho and Yoochun, and they stand facing each other, filing old vinyl records leisurely. In a job like theirs, this is the most fun they know to have when managers aren’t around.

“I would’ve never expected people to be so dumb as to mess up a simple display like this,” Yoochun complains with a sigh, picking up a Bob Dylan album from the Y section. “This job is going to kill me.”

“Why do you say that?” Yunho asks with a smile. It isn’t because of Yoochun, but a little more because he comes across a Blue Öyster Cult album and for some reason, that amuses him. “It’s not so bad, I mean, aside from our lovely coworkers. Easy, good hours.”

“Yeah, I know, it’s just that I work another job at a jazz bar, so I haven’t been getting a lot of sleep lately.”

“Why would you work so much? Sounds like the jazz bar gig would be good money.”

“Yeah, well, I live with my uh—”

Yunho’s got a glint in his eye as he suggests an answer. “Boyfriend? It’s okay. I understand. Are you supporting him?”

“Yeah, kinda. He’s a psych major, and he’s only twenty. His dad threw him out right after graduation when he came out about us dating, and we’ve been together since then. But I don’t know—lately we’ve been really tight on money. There must be something we missed in our finances, whatever, but we can’t make rent if I don’t work two jobs. I don’t want him to work more than he already does because he needs to do his schoolwork, you know?”

“Wow, really? So with his classes and everything, you two must not see each other much lately.”

“Yeah, you got that right,” Yoochun sighs, shaking his head. “But we manage. I mean, I have a little time in the morning and I don’t work at the bar on Sundays and Mondays. So we can ha—uh, never mind.”

“Have sex in the morning and it’s super hot because you’re in broad daylight?”

“You’re a mind reader,” he laughs.

Yunho smiles, shaking his head. “Nah, just really compassionate. I hope you two can work it out without anyone being overworked or things going sour.”

“Well, we love each other. As long as there’s that certainty, I know we can be happy.”

And Yoochun really, really believes it, feels it from the bottom of his heart. It makes Yunho smile, because the number of guys who are like that is pretty small.

“Everything is so much more beautiful at dawn,” Yoochun says softly, looking outside the window with a dreamy look on his face. Changmin knows him too well not to notice the tears glowing in his eyes from the exhaustion, but also another feeling Yoochun can’t describe, a kind of sadness that he can’t fight even with Changmin around.

Part of Changmin will always hate that they’re so different; in those moments of wonderment that Yoochun spends bonding with his spiritual and artistic side, all the worries that are pushed out of his mind enter Changmin’s, who’s always been a lot better (or worse) at worrying than he is in moments like this, he figures. He knows he’s a burden on Yoochun’s shoulders—he works twice as hard as he would if he were alone now, feeding his own mouth and another one’s that several times hungrier. Just for Changmin, he’s had to give up his dreams, enduring his new boss’s and coworkers’ attitude quietly when it’s already hard enough, on top of all that, to get four hours of sleep every night because he forbids Changmin to work more than fifteen hours a week.

Yoochun watches the sunrise, and Changmin gets fed up.

“I’m going job hunting this afternoon,” he declares, tearing his boyfriend’s starry eyes away from the window.

“Did something happen at the library?” he asks, brows furrowed in confusion and worry. It would be easier to lie than say he wants a second job, but he’s too stubborn.

“No. I still work there, but I need more money. If I can at least pay more than my half of rent, then it’ll be a load off your—”

“No,” Yoochun mimics. “No way. We talked about this before, Changmin. You worry about your major; I worry about money, yeah? You’re just being silly. How many times do I have to break out the statistics to you? It’s proven that working more than ten to—”

“I don’t care about the goddamn statistics, for once! You can’t always be rational with numbers—look at yourself. I don’t even know how you’re holding it together, because just the sight of you like this kills me. I wish you could be my sugar daddy as much as you do, but you’re not. You’re just Yoochun and you’re poor. You know what, I just—I gotta go do something about this. I’ll be back by lunch.”

He grabs his bag and leaves the building, wandering around outside for hours. There’s an early morning chill, goose bumps all over his arms and under his shirt, and it’s only when he finds himself sitting outside his father’s office building in sweatpants that he realizes just how desperate he is. Yoochun would hate him if he knew what he’s about to do.

He waits and waits, changing his mind back and forth as men and women in suits start piling in, carrying briefcases like their whole lives are in there, and only casting a glance at him like you would a fly on the wall. He has his arms wrapped around himself, telling himself that he should just go back to Yoochun before he starts his sixteen-hour day and spend a little time with him, when his father steps in front of him silently. Changmin can tell he’s torn between saying his name and asking what he’s doing there or just walking in like he doesn’t know him; after he seems to choose the latter, Changmin gets to his feet and grabs his arm, looking at him with eyes that aren’t pleading, but a little helpless, because at that moment, he can only see Yoochun in his mind, with his tired eyes and his sinking shoulders.

“Can I please talk to you?” he asks softly, making sure to catch his gaze when he doesn’t turn away. His father’s face is stoic, like he really doesn’t see him as his son anymore.

“Place an appointment,” is what he answers, and Changmin’s expression darkens a bit.

“You may not see me as your son anymore, and that’s your choice, but you’re still my only father and even though I hate to say it as much as you hate to hear it, I need your help.”

His father only nods after a few seconds that feels like hours and motions for him to go inside, and twenty minutes later, Changmin finds himself with a big fat check in hand that he hopes will help getting him and Yoochun back on their feet, at least. He decides not to tell him about it, though, and hides the check in the back of his sock drawer, until he has time to cash it in.

It’s a lie in its own way and he really hates not being honest with Yoochun, but something tells him that it’s better not to let him know about it because he doesn’t want to see how it would make him react. After all, he’s got his pride, the same one that drives him to work shitty hours at a shitty job that makes him so tired physically and emotionally that he can’t enjoy his other job, the one that he used to like so much.

And so, Changmin leaves the check waiting in the dresser for a few days, too caught up in university to have time to take care of it. On the very afternoon he’s decided to come back and get it in between two classes, he finds Yoochun sitting in the living room, having a staring contest with the check and looking like he wants to be mad, but tries not to be for the sake of not starting a fight before he gets an explanation.

When he sees Changmin come through the door, he damn well hopes it’s a good one that’ll reassure him more than anything he’s been thinking about for the last several minutes. “What’s this?” he asks, pointing to the check on the table in front of him.

“It's a check,” Changmin answers. Maybe the arrogance in his tone isn't quite the best idea in the world, but he knows what's coming and he's sick of Yoochun making sacrifices for him constantly.

“I can see that, Changmin, I'm not stupid. Why is there a check from your father in my house?” he presses, growing a little antsier with every word. Even though Changmin keeps telling himself not to yield, he's starting to feel a nervous weight at the bottom of his stomach telling him he doesn't want to start a fight either, but knowing it's probably inevitable.

“We need that money so that we can manage rent on our apartment without you working for two. It's just enough for you to quit the shitty shop and get us back on our feet. The way it used to be.”

“I don't need that man's money! Have you forgotten what he did to you? He disowned you and threw you out into the streets like a dog! I know I haven't forgotten that, and I'm never going to forgive either. Get rid of it.”

His tone of voice is low and serious as he stands up and hands the check to Changmin, his eyes almost menacing; Changmin knows how he gets when he's hurt, but this time he doesn't want to understand.

“No. This has nothing to do with my dad, we just need money! Wasn't he nice enough to give us this much? At this point I'm just thankful that we have it, and so should you. Aren't you sick of that job?”

“I am, but I have to keep it if we want to make rent, don't I? Why does it bother you so much?”

“Because I'm sick of you babying me and I know they're bullying you over there!” Changmin exclaims, the words leaving his mouth much too fast.

Yoochun's eyes darken considerably. “I baby you? That's rich. If I baby you, then what is this? You just said I was being bullied like a fourth grader!”

“Try to tell me it isn't true. Do you think I'm blind because you choose not to talk about it? I want to help, Yoochun. I want to help, either by working more or borrowing money, but you insist on staying like this. But for what? Your pride that you can support me? I'm not a trophy wife. I'm not going to stand by and watch you get hurt like this.”

Yoochun stares at him for a moment, anger slowly boiling inside him, and Changmin briefly thinks maybe he got through to him, but then everything explodes and degenerates. They've fought before, raised their voice at each other like every couple does, but never this hard; after a while, Changmin loses track of time among the yelling, but it feels like hours until it dies down and they both sit on the couch, drained and feeling heavy still.

“This isn't working,” Changmin says softly after a moment. “We can't keep it up anymore.”

“What does that mean?”

Changmin looks to the side at Yoochun, whose eyes are filled with worry and dread, and swallows hard, as if it’ll help making the pill pass. “You know what it means and you know I’m right.”

Yoochun still doesn’t answer, leaning his head back on the couch and looking up at the ceiling as he sighs deeply. That’s when Changmin curls up against him, slowly, quietly—after two whole years spent together, it’s become a habit, a natural way their bodies fit together, but today it’s different. Usually, it was their way of speaking without actually talking; but now, it’s how they’re avoiding reality, the two words that neither of them wants to hear. But it’s not like it makes it any less painful.

“Are we really doing this?”

“We have to, if we want to keep seeing each other. I love you, Yoochun, and I don’t want to see an ugly end to this,” Changmin says softly as he takes Yoochun’s hand and laces their fingers together. “I want us to stay friends and this is the only way it can happen. You mean too much to me and I don’t want us to break up in any other way than a mature decision. We can’t risk it hurting too much.”

“I hate that you’re always rational,” Yoochun whispers, but what he really means is that he’s not sure this isn’t going to hurt too much just because Changmin is trying to convince himself it won’t. Still, he doesn’t say it—because he still knows the other is right.

“Me too.”

They both shift on the couch, sadness filling their hearts as they look at each other quietly for a moment before they bring their lips together, the kiss turning desperate within seconds. When Yoochun’s hand pushes up Changmin’s shirt, he pulls away, shaking his head a little as he swallows the lump of his throat. His phone beeps, indicating that he has to go back to university, and he stands up, biting his lip.

“I have a class,” he says softly, and Yoochun looks at him pleadingly, taking his hand.

“Changmin, don’t go, please, not now.”

“It’s an important lecture, I can’t miss it.” The second the words leave Changmin’s mouth, his throat tightens almost painfully and he’s not even sure of his decision anymore, even if a few seconds ago he was telling both Yoochun and himself that it’s for the best. He knows that if he leaves now, he’ll only come back while Yoochun is at work to get his things, and what he doesn’t know is whether they’ll really keep seeing each other or not.

(They don’t.)

Part 2