When Changmin shows up at his parents’ house early in the morning with two bags and a box of his college books in his hands, his mother takes one look at his puffy eyes and pulls him inside, hugging him tightly. She offers him food, hot chocolate, soda, his favourite dessert, but all he does is shake his head and go straight up to his old room, the door closed and everything inside dusty and untouched like he didn’t just move out, but died.
He drops his things on the floor, careless that the box falls over and all his books spill out, and sits down on the bed, staring at the wall across from him blankly until it all sinks in. Unbearable weight settles down on his shoulders as he looks at the wall he used to know before Yoochun, and that he finds again now—after Yoochun. He can’t help the tears that start streaming down his face and pulls his knees to his chest, hugging them tight and burying his face in them to muffle the sobs that rack his body. He doesn’t remember ever crying this hard since he was old enough to stop wailing every time he scratched his knee or bumped into a wall or doorway because his limbs were getting too long for him to control, and he feels ridiculous about it.
Outside, his sister has her ear pressed against the door, and she looks back at their mother with a sad look on her face. She can’t remember the last time she heard her older brother cry, and the sole fact that he is gives her an idea of how much he can be hurting right now—but really, she has no idea. At least not until it becomes clear that he’s shut himself in his room after a few days and only comes out to go to the bathroom or to eat something that can barely even be considered a meal. He doesn’t look at anyone, doesn’t speak to anyone, and misses out on a ton of lectures, sending short, inexpressive texts to classmates to ask them to take notes for him; he’s done it for a lot of people and never misses out, so it isn’t hard to get help.
But word gets around that Changmin has stopped going to classes and his friends start worrying, asking if he’s sick—and when he replies that he isn’t, everyone assumes that it’s a break-up. He puts his phone on silent, but doesn’t shut it off, scared to miss out on a call or text from Yoochun.
On the fifth day, Junsu shows up to his house uninvited, bursting into his room like he’s been there every day.
“What are you doing here?” Changmin asks, his voice scratchy and weak from not having spoken in a few days. “And how did you even know my address?”
“Oh, you know, magic or something. Magicians can’t reveal their secrets. How’s my favourite nerd?”
Junsu only gets glared at, but it doesn’t deter him. He knows maybe that question wasn’t quite the most delicate thing to ask, and he doesn’t say anything else, just sitting next to him and patting his arm comfortingly. “Come play soccer with me? Exercise is gonna make you feel better. Get your mind off things. Your lungs are probably getting all rubbery from always breathing the same stupid air.”
Changmin shakes his head, toying with his phone silently. “He isn’t calling me.”
“Yeah, that’s usually what happens when people break up. That’s why it’s called breaking up.”
“You don’t understand,” Changmin whispers. “Yoochun and I were different. We didn’t scream at each other when we broke up, we both took a decision because it was better for our relationship. We said we’d stay friends. Because that’s how much we meant to each other, because if we can’t be together, we can’t be apart either. We just...clicked, you know?”
“Sounds to me like co-dependency.”
“You have no idea what co-dependency means, jerkface.”
When Junsu hears those words, he grins, wraps an arm around Changmin, and sways them from side to side a little. “You’re going to be just fine, Changmin-ah. Trust me.”
He can only hope Junsu’s right.
When Jaejoong learns that Yoochun and Changmin broke up, he plays the part of the supportive best friend like he always has, but he can’t help but be a little angry at Changmin. He always has been angry at whoever it was that would dump his best friend, because anyone who hurt him got themselves on his blacklist for eternity, but this is different. He’s never seen such a messy, unhealthy, stupid break-up in his entire life; they were in love, damn it, so much in love that he burned with jealousy when he saw them together, and now, it’s over just like that.
And Changmin was the one who suggested it. From that point on, the brat is classified in his head as a manipulating, man-eating little bastard—but really, he can’t bring himself to truly believe those words. He liked Changmin, liked that he was so smart and a steady anchor in Yoochun’s life, liked that he was smart and witty and a little mischievous, liked that he made Yoochun happy. At some point, he’d even started considering him as a friend, but it’s hard to keep himself from mentally calling him every name in the book whenever he sees Yoochun cuddled up in bed with a sweater of Changmin’s that he hasn’t picked up just yet and his eyes puffy and red, face pale like all the life has been sucked out of him.
“Should I call him?” Yoochun asks him one day, reaching for the phone. “I should call him. See how he’s doing. He had a big exam this week and he studied so hard—”
Jaejoong snatches the phone away and looks at his best friend angrily. “Are you going to fucking stop about him? He dumped you! He could’ve just moved out and found himself a place to stay if it bothered him that you were killing yourself with work to pay his bills, but instead he just decided to cut you out of his life. He said he wanted you to stay friends? Fine! If he wants to stay friends, then he’ll call. He hasn’t, so wake up! Don’t chase after someone who’s already started to run away from you; they’re not worth it.”
The look on Yoochun’s face is the most devastated he’s ever seen and he almost, almost feels bad for being so harsh on him, but he needs to hear those words and the both know it. Still, that doesn’t stop him from sitting down next to him and wrapping his arms around those frail shoulders, pulling him close carefully, almost as if he’ll break.
“I know it hurts,” he says, his voice much softer now. “But I promise it won’t hurt forever. You know what we should do? We should gather up all the things that belong to him and give them back. You’re only torturing yourself by keeping bits and parts of him all around you.”
He knows how much Yoochun clings to things and memories, and the best way to help him move on is to give him nothing to cling to. When Yoochun shakes his head no, Jaejoong opens his mouth to speak up again, but he beats him to it.
“Not we. I’ll do it myself. I’m sorry, but this is something that I don’t want you to be a part of.”
Jaejoong kisses his forehead. “Alright. But do it soon, okay? And call me when you’re done. I’ll come with wine and a big tub of Haagen-Dazs.”
When Jaejoong calls Changmin and coldly tells him that there’s a box of his stuff at Yoochun’s just waiting to be picked up, his stomach drops a little. Because it isn’t Yoochun calling him. Because this is the last step leading to the end of their relationship, and they’re not even doing it together. His vision blurs with tears that he blinks away, looking up at the ceiling of his bedroom and taking in a deep, shaky breath as Jaejoong’s voice drones on robotically, distorted by the phone.
“You probably know his work schedule by heart, so please have the decency to come while he isn’t home. And don’t tell him you’re stopping by, because he’ll just wait for you. He says to leave your key on the coffee table.”
Changmin nods, and realizes belatedly that Jaejoong can’t see him. He croaks out a word of agreement that he doesn’t remember five seconds later and hangs up almost on automatic pilot, the state lingering for the next few days until he decides that it’s time to go back to Yoochun’s apartment. He still has a hard time remembering that it isn’t theirs anymore, mentally correcting himself every time with a little bit of resentment, dread filling him when he turns the key in the lock.
He opens the door with shaking hands, spots the box a few steps away, but his gaze freezes on Yoochun sitting on the couch in the living room with a quilt wrapped around his shoulders, cross-legged and cradling a cup of coffee—no, hot chocolate, he realizes a few seconds later when he sees the colour of the drink—in his hands. They both look at each other like a deer caught in the headlights and Changmin is the first one to react, taking a step back towards the door.
“I’m sorry. I thought you were at work,” he says softly.
“I called in sick. Haven’t been able to catch a lot of shut-eye lately.”
“Me neither.” A pause. “I’ll come back another time.”
Yoochun stands up, carefully sitting his mug down before walking over to him, not knowing what to do with his hands—so he twists his fingers nervously. “You can’t just leave like this again.”
“Jaejoong will be mad at me.”
“This has nothing to do with Jaejoong,” Yoochun says with an edge of tired frustration, taking a step towards Changmin. They look into each other’s eyes quietly again, for a moment that seems to stretch out for hours, and something snaps—Yoochun kisses Changmin hard and desperate, pulls him close, and Changmin kisses back like the end of the world is coming and this is all there is to do.
The next several minutes are a mess of wandering hands and lips and tongues and soon clothes are coming off, their fingers clawing at the material as their breaths come out in short pants. They don’t say anything, don’t speak of how much a mistake this is, because they know that what’s about to happen is going to happen; they need it, the both of them do. They need each other to feel a little more alive than they have for the past few days, and this is the only way.
Once they’re skin to skin and there isn’t time to explore like they used to, they gravitate to the couch, Changmin settling down with little care for comfort as he pulls Yoochun down with him, kissing him hard and rocking their hips together, their voices mixing in pleasure. One look at Yoochun and all that needs to be said is clear even when the words are unspoken. He feels cold when Yoochun pulls away and returns with lube, wanting to feel him close as soon as he possibly can and for the longest times. Yoochun has decided to save some time and the finger that enters Changmin as soon as he settles back over him is slick, tearing sounds from his throat that Yoochun has been hearing only in his dreams ever since they broke up.
“Yoochun, Yoochun, please,” he begs softly, blunt nails digging into his shoulders to urge him on. He’s told Yoochun many times that he wasn’t made of glass, and this time he doesn’t have to. A second finger breaches him and he arches his back, still begging for more, more, more.
If there wasn’t enough prep, Changmin never notices, because the moment Yoochun enters him, he feels complete again. Long legs wrap around Yoochun’s waist and pull him closer, heels digging into his back to urge him to go faster, harder, deeper—Yoochun tries his best to comply, just as desperate, and steals kisses every now and then, when he isn’t busy sucking and biting down on his neck, as if trying to taste his skin. He knows Changmin’s body better than his own after all this time and he’s got it mapped out under his fingers, knowing what it takes to get him writhing under him and it’s what he does, all fleeting touches and whispers of words that are meant all for him, just for him.
Soon their desperate moans and cries are blending together, both of them falling into a rhythm that has them close to the edge in no time. Yoochun is the one who comes first, Changmin’s name on his lips as he buries his face in his neck and fills him. He’s still shaking when he wraps a hand around him, moving up and down and twisting the way he knows Changmin likes it, and soon he’s joining him, throwing his head against the back of the couch and arching into his hand.
They slump boneless against the couch, holding each other tight as they catch their breath and try to find a way to stop time. “I love you,” Yoochun whispers against his jaw. He dreads a silence that doesn’t come, because Changmin murmurs the words back to him, holding him tighter.
But Changmin tears himself from his embrace much too soon and doesn’t speak a word, doesn’t even look at Yoochun as he puts his clothes back on like a ritual. His fingers are shaking a little but he still manages to take his key out of his pocket and fiddle with it briefly before leaving it on the coffee table, taking the box in his arms and sniffling when he walks through the door.
Outside, it starts to rain, and Changmin forces himself not to look back.
As time passes, Changmin’s firsts without Yoochun pile up until there’s not much left to add. It’s been a year already, but things haven’t fallen back into place even then. He keeps telling himself that he’s about to come full circle soon, but he can’t shake the feeling that there’s something holding him back, something missing. Sometimes, he goes to the jazz bar, on the nights he knows Yoochun doesn’t work. He sits in a booth at the back, directly across the bar, and closes his eyes, listening to the music. It reminds him of the times he came there to study with a glass of wine, the atmosphere much more stimulating than their quiet apartment. Between two structures of the human brain, he’d sometimes look up and Yoochun would smile at him from his spot at the bar.
Now, when he opens his eyes, an attractive young woman is wiping glasses, smiling and innocently flirting with her customers. He remembers the way Yoochun did the same thing with female patrons, and how it never really bothered him—when he thinks of him doing it now that he’s single (or maybe he isn’t), it makes him a little nauseous. When the clock strikes eleven and the owner sits at the bar, glancing at him, he stands and leaves, his glass of red untouched on the table.
At his parents’ urging (but mostly because of his mother’s worried eyes), he starts seeing a girl, the daughter of friends of the family. She’s just a year younger than he is and incredibly sweet—they always are—but he can’t bring himself to ever kiss her, or really say they’re dating, or in a relationship.
Because they aren’t, and he’ll never love her, he tells his father one night. It doesn’t even have anything to do with the fact that he’s gay; even if she was a man, he wouldn’t look at her any more than he does now. When his father asks why, he can’t make himself utter out Yoochun’s name. But he hopes he understands even just a little, that it’s more than just an issue of sexuality.
His twenty-first birthday rolls around and his family takes him out to dinner, despite his protests that he’s tired, and still has a lot to study. He needs to get out more, they say, and the answer to everything when you have this much money is an expensive, fancy restaurant.
It’s a stuffy little place with dishes that cost more than what Changmin would eat in all three meals of the day back when he lived with Yoochun and they were tight on money, and when his father tells him to order what he wants, he still doesn’t know what to do. He gets his girlfriend to choose something she thinks he’ll like and she leans forward, pointing at something in his menu when there is a crash, a child running into a waiter’s legs and causing him to drop the plates he was carrying, all of it happening by the bar.
When he looks in that direction, his gaze falls on the bartender and he practically stops breathing, his heart missing a beat when he sees Yoochun’s smile as he rolls up his sleeves and starts mixing a vodka cranberry for a lady in a red dress, laughing at something she said. There’s no glint in his eye, though, and it’s barely discernable to others, but Changmin knows he’s just humouring her. She slips away once she has his drink and Yoochun is alone, focusing on small tasks like making sure there are no water rings on the bar or stirring the bucket of ice a little so that no cubes stick together. He’s always been a perfectionist.
“Excuse me,” he says to the rest of the table, eyes glued to Yoochun as he stands and forgets to push back his chair, much to other patrons’ horror. He almost causes another accident by the time he reaches the bar and sits on a stool, finally coming out of his daze when he’s finally facing Yoochun. “Hey.”
“Hey,” Yoochun replies softly, after the initial shock and momentary staring has passed.
“What are you doing here? Did something happen to the jazz bar gig?”
Yoochun shakes his head. “The owner of this place is a good friend of my boss’s and their bartender called in sick two hours before his shift. He had no one else for the night, and since I’m good and this is one of my nights off, my boss suggested me. It’s good money, too.”
“I bet it is. My sister ordered a roasted duck that costs more than my six-hundred page development psych textbook,” Changmin says with a hint of exasperation, and Yoochun laughs, with the glint in his eye and everything. An awkward silence follows.
“I quit the music shop job,” Yoochun says suddenly. “I got a pay raise at the bar and I was spending a lot less so it seemed like the right thing to do. I kept the check too. But I haven’t touched any of the money. It’s—I thought, hey, just in case.”
“I’m glad,” Changmin replies in a soft voice, and means it.
He seems to sit there making small talk with Yoochun a lot longer than he thought, because the other points to his table discreetly and says, “Your food’s here. You should go if you don’t want it to be cold. Plus, your family looks kinda pissed.”
“It’s how they always look.” Changmin gives a small smile and moves off the stool, about to leave when Yoochun speaks up again.
“If you feel like having a drink after you’ve eaten, though, I’ll...be here.”
Changmin looks back at him, and this time, his smile is more charming than strained. “I’d love to.”
His girlfriend is a little edgy and possessive when he comes back, touching his arm every time he says something potentially funny and makes her laugh, insisting to feed him some of her food even though he hasn’t asked to taste. It pleases his father, though, so he doesn’t say a word about it, and tries to eat without staring at Yoochun too much.
He’s like a little kid on Christmas morning as dinner comes to a close, fidgeting on his chair as he waits for the bill to be paid and everyone to finally stand. “Thank you so much for tonight,” he says, but doesn’t put his coat on. “I think I’m going to stay and have a drink, though. I’ll take a cab home.”
Once he’s sitting back at the bar, he finally relaxes, slumping against it a little. “My family is exhausting.”
“I don’t know, your sisters look sweet,” Yoochun comments, fixing him a spritzer. As he slides it towards him, he asks, casually, “Who was that third girl, though?”
Changmin freezes. But then, he realizes that this is Yoochun, of all people, and that he can tell him the truth. “She’s a friend of my family’s. I’ve been seeing her to appease my parents, really. It makes my mother happy because I’m not just moping around the house and I can pretend not to be heartbroken with a girl around, and it makes my dad hate me a little less because he thinks that now that you aren’t around and you’ve been replaced by something with breasts, I’m cured. Like being in love was a fucking disease.”
He laughs bitterly and Yoochun frowns a little. “I’m not sure which I find the worst, this or throwing you out.”
“I never blamed you, you know,” Changmin says softly after a moment, playing with the straw in his drink. “For getting me thrown out. I always had a feeling you thought you were responsible for urging me to come out, but it wasn’t your fault. I had to do it one day, and you only helped me. It’s just my father’s fault for being disgustingly set in his ways.”
“Well, I guess I should be thankful that you see it this way,” Yoochun smiles. And for the next few hours, they talk like this, just like they used to when they met. Still, there’s something different, the lingering sense that they’re meant to be together but aren’t, which obviously wasn’t there in the beginning—at least not hanging above them like this.
“I should really go home,” Changmin says when Yoochun starts to close the bar, his shift about to end.
“Or you could come over and have a cup of coffee.”
He sighs. “You know what’s going to happen if I come over.”
“So what if it happens?” Yoochun asks, leaning on the counter so that his eyes are level with Changmin’s, and looks at him seriously. “I want it to happen. I know this is an impersonal and unromantic place to tell you I’ve never stopped loving you even for one second, but I have to say it now or it’ll be too late. This has been the roughest year in my entire life because you weren’t around and I’ve hated every second of it, so yes, I want you to come to my apartment, our apartment, and have a cup of coffee. If we have sex, then we have sex, and if we get back together, then I’ll only be happy. I’m not asking you the world, Changmin. Just a cup of coffee.”
“Look, I’m sick of this, okay? I’m sick of thinking about you every time I see anything related to psychology or video games or even literacy. I’m sick of thinking about you every time I hear Kokomo, which is surprisingly often. And I’m sick of writing about how I’d give you the moon because I keep thinking about you and it kills me. I’m not a cheesy writer and you’ve turned me into one. At least give me this back.”
Changmin looks at Yoochun disbelievingly. “You started writing again?”
“Yeah, and composing. But like I said, it’s all crap.”
“Alright, let’s have a cup of coffee,” he says softly. Just knowing that Yoochun can do what he’s passionate about again, that he’s not scared to do it like he was back when he had the weight of the world on his shoulders, tells him that maybe there’s a little hope for them after all.
Yoochun takes him to his apartment as promised, but they don’t have coffee. Instead, they go straight to bed, but unlike their last time together, they take it slow. They rediscover each other; take time to take in every little shiver, every kiss, and everything that’s changed. It’s still familiar, though, but not because they’ve run back to the past—because it’s right where they have to be.
After that, they start dating again. Changmin keeps it a secret from even Junsu, and Yoochun does the same with Jaejoong, even if it’s near impossible, and again, they take their time. They have another first date, another first kiss, another first time having sex, and this time they don’t rush anything. Changmin still lives back at his parents’ and they both save money in prevision for the day they decide to move back in together. And when they do, it’s actually planned, and things are done in order.
“I’m moving in with Yoochun this Saturday,” Changmin announces at dinner one night, after it’s been decided for two weeks. This time, he laughs, because his father can’t throw him out—because he’s walking out all of his own accord.
It feels like a victory, and Yoochun doesn’t hide the fact that he takes it as his personal victory. They’re among Changmin’s boxes in what has become their apartment again when he brings it up, and Changmin snorts, shoving him playfully.
“Shut up, you weren’t even there.”
Yoochun puts a hand on his heart, sighing dramatically. “And I thought you understood that I was always there with you by spirit. My love for you gives me wings, baby.”
“I hope that’s not part of the next song you’re going to sell, because if it is, you might just have to start working at the music shop again,” Changmin teases.
“It’s not.” Yoochun smiles and leaves a big, wet kiss on his cheek. “My cheesiness is reserved all for you, and between these walls only.”
Changmin looks around the living room with a smile, picturing how it’s going to look when all his things are unpacked and back into place. “You know what, for the past year I’ve been living in the house I was born and raised in, and all my life I thought that it would always be the place I could go back to and feel home, but I was wrong. It didn’t feel like home, but now, I feel like I’ve come home.”
“Of course you do. You know what they say,” Yoochun smiles, almost secretive.
“Huh? What is it? What do they say?”
He pulls him in for a deep, slow kiss, and presses their foreheads together. “Home is where the heart is.”
And Changmin couldn’t find words more fitting, clever as he is, even if he tried.