suheafoams (suheafoams) wrote,

  • Mood:
  • Music:

I'm Asphyxiated ; The Many Li(v)es of Fear // Part I of IV

rated R
romance, angst, drama, au
33300 words

Fear is Joonmyun's twin, denial is his father, and love is a man he never wants to relive his memories of again.

“So why is it you never go to those high school reunions you get so many invitations to?” Kris asks. Joonmyun has just thrown out a stack of the cards into the recycling; his mother always sends them to the office in hopes that he’ll go. “You mentioned you were the class president, too. Doesn’t everyone want to meet you again?”

“I think they’ll be fine without me there,” Joonmyun answers, tapping the stack of papers on the table so they’ll fall into alignment again. There’s times when he gets too talkative in front of other people. “Can you get me a coffee?”

Kris looks appalled at the amount of coffee Joonmyun is consuming rather than offended that Joonmyun is telling him to get one. “That’s your sixth cup and it’s not even past noon yet!”

“I like mine black,” Joonmyun calls over his shoulder as he leaves the lounge.

With Joonmyun’s intense job as a film producer, it’s a miracle the only thing he’s addicted to is coffee. It helps relieve his stress when he has to deal with uncooperative staff members or pull extra hours out of his own time to make an unreasonable deadline.

Today’s the first day of shooting, after months and months of recruiting actors and creating a production team and making yet more adjustments whenever a hole was found in plans. Everything that’s being shot right now is indoors, so Joonmyun gives himself a little more space to relax by leaving the supervision to Kris.

Only five minutes in, and the lead actress has already forgotten her lines. Joonmyun wants to throw something, but resorts to gripping his forearms so he won’t start screaming his head off. So much for taking a rest. He grabs his clipboard and wedges a pencil behind his ear, walking towards the scene to get a closer look at what’s going on.

“I thought you wanted to take a break?” Kris says when he realizes Joonmyun’s standing next to him. “Or could you not handle the thought of me supervising things?”

“You’re a lot more patient than I am, so people don’t feel the same urgency they do when I’m around,” Joonmyun answers, a smile on the corners of his lips. Kris doesn’t know whether that’s a comment or an insult so he remains silent. Joonmyun has always been good with words and manipulating people through whatever verbal methods he can employ. For a man of his stature, he looks completely benign until he opens his mouth.

“Joonmyunnie hyung,” Sehun comes running, his rainbow bangs flying up and exposing his forehead. “We’ve got a problem.”

Those are words that Joonmyun’s heard a million times but never fails to feel irritated at when he hears them again. At first he considers correcting Sehun’s affectionate nickname for him, but it’s too much of a bother since Sehun’s memory is equal to a hamster’s. He decides to just ask, “What is it?”

“The photographer we hired quit for personal reasons.” Sehun taps his index fingers together, biting his lower lip.

“Well what are you doing – aren’t you going to get him back to work?” Joonmyun snaps irritably. Why does everyone have to insist on giving him a headache today?

“W-well that defeats the purpose of him even q-quitting in the first place…” Sehun replies, looking a little scared because Joonmyun’s getting angrier by the second.

Joonmyun throws up his hands in surrender. “Then find a new photographer! And fast!”

“You’re not going to…?” Kris asks. It’s unheard of for Joonmyun to give a task as important as this to someone else.

“I’m done with recruiting. Just find one or two that aren’t shady and easy to work with. There’s enough shit on the list of things I have to do just for this movie to be finished,” Joonmyun says in exasperation, shaking his head.

Although he did say he wouldn’t be in charge of getting a new photographer, Joonmyun heads to another exhibition in Seoul anyways to see if there’s anyone he likes there. It’s one where people dress up fancy and pretend they know what real art is, but Joonmyun thinks it’s all just for show. He would much rather have come in a hoodie and jeans than the collared shirt and dress pants he has on now.

There’s nothing that stands out particularly to him, maybe a few different photographers’ work, but most of them are busy talking to potential clients and Joonmyun doesn’t have to get anything accomplished today anyways. He steps out into the hallway, where he can actually breathe and not be swarmed in a mixture of perfumes that are too fruity and overly applied colognes.

“You’d think my nose would have become immune to it now,” Joonmyun mutters, and rummages through his pockets for any coffee candy. He stores them in nearly every article of clothing he has in case he’s out and about without a cup of coffee on him.

Coffee has a soothing taste and smell and feeling that nothing and nobody else can offer Joonmyun. He’s never been one to talk much about himself because it seems that he’s always solving other people’s disputes, yelling at staff, or trying to convince some actor or some director to work for his team. It makes sense; he simply doesn’t have the time.

In other words, Joonmyun can’t relate to other people. He doesn’t care about many to begin with, except for Kris and Luhan (and maybe Sehun), but even they don’t know what he’s really like on the inside, so it’s accurate to say nobody understands him. Whether he’s in a room filled with people and sociality or his own apartment that’s never warm enough for his sensitive body, he feels the same. Alone.

“You’re a real workaholic if you go around doing tasks that aren’t yours,” a familiar voice muses, and Joonmyun turns to see Kris and Sehun smiling at him.

“I was just here to see the exhibit,” Joonmyun says coolly. “Have you guys talked to anyone yet?”

“A few, but not very promising. They all looked like high class assholes if you ask me –” Sehun doesn’t sound vicious when he badmouths other people. Not the way Joonmyun does even if he tries to tone his ruthless complaints down.

Even so, Kris covers Sehun’s mouth politely. Joonmyun wonders how that kind of thing can be done without coming off as rude, but Kris is the epitome of cordiality and so he is not surprised. Kris says, “What he really means is that we’re still searching. Don’t worry too much, okay?”

“I’m not worried,” Joonmyun responds, though a tiny part of him still is. Sehun and Kris are not the best at perceiving people’s usefulness because they always see the best in someone whereas Joonmyun sees the worst.

The two go off to hunt down more possible candidates for hiring. Joonmyun stays in the same place, sucking on his coffee candy until it is little more than a pebble’s size, and he swallows it soon after.

He leans closer to the wall as he admires an innovative arrangement of photographs. Each one has its own unique subject and composition but contributes to the entire display, which ends up being a silhouette of a person’s side profile. Joonmyun searches around for a name plate, intrigued by the fact that someone could come up with something like this. He finds it at a table several feet away because this entire room is filled with the artist’s work.

His ears start ringing and he wants to hold his head so the sound will stop. But even when his hands are covering his head, it doesn’t. The name plate reads:

Kim Jongin
Age: 26
Photography and Design

Joonmyun thinks he’s going to throw up.

“What do you want to do after high school?” Jongin asked, brushing a dust bunny off of Joonmyun’s hood.

“I want to make movies. But I’ll probably study engineering; it’s what my parents want me to do,” Joonmyun replied, turning pink when Jongin’s breath tickled the back of his neck. “What’s your dream, Jongin?”

“I want to be a photographer. Just take pictures, and put them together to make something meaningful. Or whatever else. You can do a lot with photographs. But that’s a hard job to get by if no one likes your pictures, so maybe I’ll just do it as a hobby?” Jongin smiled and kissed Joonmyun on the forehead.

“You should make it come true. That dream,” Joonmyun said.

“Maybe I will,” Jongin answered. “Maybe I will.”

“This is an absolutely wonderful display!”

Joonmyun turns around. There’s a small group of middle aged spectators gathering at the piece he’d just been looking at, and Joonmyun wonders how expert they consider themselves to be at admiring art. A tall man approaches them. “Thank you,” he bows slightly, looking pleased at the positive feedback.

Lean legs and a well-proportioned torso lead up to a smiling face that Joonmyun has seen too many times to count. The man’s dark eyes are soft, and his hair is permed into a wavy mess that looks good even though it clearly shouldn’t. Joonmyun doesn’t like curls. Never has.

Jongin looks in his direction for a second, and Joonmyun turns around on instinct, quickly exiting the exhibition without looking back. Once he’s outside, he holds onto the stairway for support as he tries to repress the violent urge to vomit everything he’s eaten today.

Joonmyun shows up to work in sunglasses and hood hanging over his face. He considers himself lucky to have the type of job where there is no strict dress code, though that doesn’t stop Kris from commenting on his change of fashion choice.

“You look like hell froze over,” Kris says, looking bright as ever with his fresh haircut and ash golden dye job. Joonmyun wants to grab a fistful and tug. Hard.

“Well god damn can’t a man dress like a slop for once?”

“Oh, someone’s sensitive. Usually you pretend I’m not there or tell me to get you a coffee. Do you want one?” Kris’s tone turns from teasing to full on concern.

“I just had three this morning. I need to slow it down,” Joonmyun says, waving his hand. It’s barely past 8 AM.

“Since when did Joonmyun bother to control his consumption of coffee?” Kris jokes, but he sobers up quickly once he remembers what he was going to ask. “Really, why are you dressed like that today though? You never oversleep, and…did you not sleep well?”

“I slept at 3 AM when I got in bed at 12,” Joonmyun explains, and he doesn’t go farther than that.

“Did you see a horror movie trailer? You should know to switch the channel when you see those things,” Kris looks mildly sympathetic. It’s in these tiny moments when Joonmyun doesn’t feel quite so misunderstood. Kris knows plenty of things about him, like how he’s both a morning and a night person (but not afternoon) and how he doesn’t like intensely flavored food, and also the fact that he’s terrified of horror movies yet can’t bring himself to stop watching if he stumbles upon a trailer. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg, and the worst of Joonmyun is all down under.

He thinks back to Jongin. “Something like that, yeah.”

“Hyung!” Sehun’s voice is much too chipper even from a distance; it leaves Joonmyun feeling more irritated than cheerful. “Are you alright? Yesterday we tried to look for you but you completely disappeared.”

“I went home.”

Sehun’s feathers seem to have been ruffled. “Well you should have told us. We wanted to tell you about the awesome guy we met but you already left.”

“Is he going to come in today?” That’s all Joonmyun really cares about. Getting a schedule rolling in time and with no setbacks. He thinks it’s something he deserves after two years of groveling in the dirt of arrogant superiors and zero recognition for his talents.

“Nah, he’s coming in two weeks. Since he has a lot of clients, he won’t be coming all the time but he has a colleague who’s also going to be working for this movie,” Kris says, taking the opportunity to pull Joonmyun’s sunglasses off his face. He stares blankly (and Sehun gasps) because there are dark circles under Joonmyun’s eyes and there’s rarely a point in life where Joonmyun lets his face get to that point of hopelessness. Sehun takes the sunglasses from Kris and slides them back onto Joonmyun’s face.

“When are we going to start filming?” Joonmyun asks, ignoring his friends’ worried expressions. He’s going to be okay after a few days.

“Daniel called in sick so we’re going to be filming as many scenes that don’t involve him as possible. Shooting starts at 10, we’ll be looking over the edited film today and giving feedback to the crew.” Sehun’s fingers curl onto the hem of his shirt as he watches Joonmyun apprehensively, like he’s waiting for a dormant volcano to suddenly explode.

“Kris, can you get me a coffee?”

“I thought you said –“ Kris is positive Joonmyun just told him he wanted to control himself a little but apparently Joonmyun doesn’t recall saying such a thing.

“Get me a coffee or I’m going to use you to make coffee instead,” Joonmyun grits his teeth, and Kris is scampering towards the lounge in no time.

Joonmyun is silent and smiling by the time Kris arrives with a piping hot, black coffee. Kris feels genuinely creeped out when Joonmyun even says thank you, and Kris excuses himself to go take care of other matters. Sehun’s still here, playing with his lower lip and looking like he has a question on the tip of his tongue.

“Do you have something to say to me?” Joonmyun asks, cup in the process of reaching his mouth.

Sehun sits down across from him. “Hyung.”


“It’s okay for me to call you hyung right?” Oh, so he’s going to ask that after having called Joonmyun whatever he wanted for the past six months?

“Well, considering the number of times you have called me hyung and the fact that you’re still alive, I think you can answer that question yourself.”

“You seem a little more normal,” Sehun grins. “What made it so hard for you to sleep last night? You don’t look like that unless you watch a full horror movie and I’m 99% positive you wouldn’t do that. The 1% is for the exception that someone’s holding a gun to your head.”

“Your imagination runs a little wild. My insomnia was just worse than usual,” Joonmyun feels uncomfortable with the way Sehun prods for information. Sehun is young and naïve, and thinks pretty much everyone he meets is trustworthy and just as open as him. Joonmyun doesn’t think Sehun has any secrets to keep, and even if he did, he wouldn’t mind sharing them with other people as long as they listened.

Joonmyun has many different lives and personalities, and he’s a little less knotted up when he’s around Baekhyun. They occasionally meet up for dinner, a night of sex, and brief conversations about their lives before they’re back to the daylight hours of conventional routines. Call it two men who happened to become friends after a one night stand. How they met…Joonmyun barely remembers, but it was probably two to three years ago when he first started lurking among the red light districts. Baekhyun was pretty, eyeliner alluring but not over the top, and Joonmyun liked the way his name rolled off of the man’s tongue.

Their relationship is carefully constructed as they aren’t totally dependent on each other. Joonmyun has his other fuck buddies, Baekhyun has his. They don’t get jealous, they don’t fall in love, and if either one of them enters a relationship, they’ll call it quits. Those are the rules, and none of them have been broken so far. At least that’s what Joonmyun thinks.

“Suho, you’ve been looking out of it lately,” Baekhyun says, glancing over to where Joonmyun is scrolling through his phone for emails. He knows that Suho is not Joonmyun’s real name, and it’d taken his persistent personality more than fifty tries to quit asking.

“Is it that obvious?” Joonmyun says good naturedly. “Everyone around me seems to notice but doesn’t ask.”

“Your eyes don’t focus that well and you’ve been getting into small accidents. That’s a sure sign something’s happened,” Baekhyun scoots closer to Joonmyun, who doesn’t recoil from the contact. “Your skin’s so pretty.”

Joonmyun turns his head to see Baekhyun peering at his shoulders rather enthusiastically, and he’s not surprised when he feels teeth sink into the skin. “Thanks, I try to take good care of it.”

“Your back has a lot of scars though. From acne? They look like they’re fading because they were a lot worse when we first met.”

“Yeah, thanks to puberty and raging hormones. And a lot of god damn stress, more than I needed. Does it turn you off?”

Baekhyun shakes his head. “Not particularly. I’m pretty sure no one can be turned off with the way that you moan.”

“You’re a real fuckin’ pervert,” Joonmyun says, then rolls his eyes when Baekhyun retorts that all perverts were made equal and he wouldn’t be here in this room with Baekhyun unless he was a pervert too.

“But honestly, is everything alright?” Baekhyun says, changing the topic (or rather going back to the original one). “You have dark spots under your eyes and you’re losing a lot of weight.”

“Work is difficult.” Joonmyun offers a simple explanation, since he doesn’t find it necessary to talk about a time where he used to be honest and actually communicated his feelings to other people.

“Your work is always difficult,” Baekhyun points out. “What’s new?”

Perhaps this is why he and Baekhyun have been able to retain an amicable relationship. Baekhyun is sharp when he wants to be, and Joonmyun doesn’t mind letting go in front of someone who has no interest in being part of his daily life. Joonmyun pulls Baekhyun towards him so they can kiss.

“Overly affectionate today, too. You’re just weird in all sorts of ways,” Baekhyun smirks. It is a lopsided smirk that Joonmyun thinks Baekhyun shouldn’t use, but he says nothing about it.

“…I saw the first guy I loved after eight years of not seeing him,” Joonmyun says, and he can already feel the familiar vile sensation creeping along the back of his throat and threatening to make it close up. Why is it that just the thought of Kim Jongin makes him lose his appetite for anything and everything?

Baekhyun doesn’t seem to quite understand. “Shouldn’t that be a good thing? It’s always nice to meet your first love.”

“We broke up badly. He didn’t see me, and I didn’t talk to him. He is,” Joonmyun has to take a deep breath or else he’s going to choke on his spit from talking too fast, “the only stain in my life.”

“More like the only guy you ever loved, when you talk about him like that. Why don’t you want to meet him?”

Joonmyun pauses. “I don’t want him to become part of my life again. That means feelings and that means people finding out the reason why I don’t date girls.”

“Well shit,” Baekhyun rolls over so he’s lying on his back. “He probably won’t. I mean, I think it’s fine that you chose not to talk to him, that’s the safe way. But even if you guys get a chance to talk again, you should remember that people change and he probably no longer cares about you. Time is a nice savior for us all.”

He sits up and starts to massage Joonmyun’s shoulders. “You’re always stiff, you should change your bad posture.”

Joonmyun merely grunts in something that could pass for compliance or dissent, Baekhyun can’t tell the difference. “You sound like you’ve had experience.”

“With what – posture? Or massaging?”

“No, I mean…time heals everything and whatever. Is that true?”

Without looking, Joonmyun can still guess that Baekhyun is shrugging. “More or less. Time has the power to make things fade, like pain but also passion. It’s a double edged sword, I would say.”

Joonmyun hums. If time is the solution to his problems, why does he still feel terrified at the possibility of seeing Jongin again?

“Hey, you finished your noodles this time!” Luhan says, getting much too up and close in Joonmyun’s personal bubble. He and Luhan attended the same university together, but didn’t meet until Luhan’s graduating year. Luhan’s a part timer at a family restaurant nearby Joonmyun’s workplace, so Joonmyun insists that he only comes to get a cheap dinner, not because he wants to see the bubblegum haired man. Luhan never gets offended by Joonmyun’s words and only laughs like a maniac at everything else he says.

“You don’t have to look that happy,” Joonmyun says sourly, spooning what’s left of the broth. “And it was still a little salty.”

“How do you live with your taste buds?” Luhan scrunches his nose. “I tried a bit of the noodles to see if I added too much salt, but it was already too bland for my taste.”

“I lose my appetite with outside food,” Joonmyun says, taking out a crisp five dollar bill to hand to Luhan.

Luhan shakes his head because god, even Joonmyun’s money is perfect, corners flat and unfolded. After putting it away, he gives Joonmyun a receipt and says, “You lose your appetite with a lot of things, like work and salty noodles. Have you been eating better lately?”

“I eat my veggies. And fruit.”

“What about meat?”

“I eat fish.”

“Your fixation on fish is a little scary,” Luhan laughs. “Not even beef can topple your love for seafood.”

“I’ll be going,” Joonmyun nods curtly before he’s walking out the door.

“It’s a shame he never lets those walls of his down,” Luhan mutters, clearing the tray of dishes from where Joonmyun was sitting. “It’d help him and everyone a lot more.”

“The photographer’s in today. Don’t you want to go and greet him?” Sehun’s head appears in the doorway while Joonmyun’s trying to enjoy his cup of coffee.

“Didn’t I greet him already?” Joonmyun recalls shaking the hand of someone called Kyungsoo, who had a side shave and striking red hair. Not his cup of tea, but attractive and more importantly, well mannered enough to work with.

“No, the one we originally hired. He says he wants to meet you personally.”

Joonmyun lets a sort of cynical laugh escape his lips. “Ha ha, aren’t I a celebrity?”

Sehun snorts, and ushers Joonmyun out into the hallway.

Joonmyun freezes. He’s face to face with a man he’s nearly recovered from seeing after two weeks, and Jongin’s surprise is visible as well, though he doesn’t look quite as unhappy as Joonmyun.

Noticing the awkward pause, Sehun asks, “…Do you guys know each other?”

Before Jongin can answer, Joonmyun shakes his head and says quickly, “No. I just thought he looked familiar. But I don’t think we’ve met.”

There’s anger in Jongin’s eyes. Joonmyun tries his best to ignore it and looks at Sehun instead.

Sehun does the standard introduction exchange. “Hyung, this is Kim Jongin. Jongin-ssi, this is my hyung, Joonmyunnie. He’s the executive producer for this film!”

“Nice to meet you, Joonmyun-ssi,” Jongin says, holding out his hand, and Joonmyun’s lips turn downward at the honorific. He bites his tongue to prevent himself from saying something repulsive and shakes Jongin’s hand lightly before pulling back. Jongin’s hand is still warm, and slightly rough, just like it had been in high school.

“Nice to meet you, too.” Joonmyun stretches his fingers out as he finds some excuse to walk over to Kris and talk.

Sehun is embarrassed because it’s not the first time Joonmyun has left him to end formal conversations on his own. “Joonmyunnie hyung is really cranky, and mean, and everyone’s scared of him. Even so, I hope you’ll bear with his behavior. Although it’s hard to tell, he really is a very hardworking and kindhearted person.”

Jongin glances in the direction of Joonmyun. “Is that so? I’ll keep that in mind.”

Luhan is dismayed when Joonmyun tells him he’s lost the two kilograms he gained back last week. “But you were eating so well.”

Joonmyun pretends Luhan’s disappointed expression doesn’t faze him, and says, “Not anymore. Can you give me a smaller portion?”

“You’re so demanding for a customer,” Luhan mutters, but he brings the tray back to the kitchen to adjust the meal to Joonmyun’s liking. He comes back and breaks Joonmyun’s chopsticks for him, rubbing them together so the wood splinters get worn off. “Here.”

“Thanks,” Joonmyun takes the chopsticks from him, and starts stirring the noodles so all the other vegetables and chunks of chicken can mix with the soup.

“You have to finish at least this, okay? I don’t want to see anything left over,” Luhan commands, pointing a finger, and Joonmyun nods.

“Can I order?” a girl asks rather impatiently, and Luhan gasps. He’d totally forgotten about the customer he put on hold because he was too busy hovering over Joonmyun.

“Right, I’m sorry, what can I get you today?” he asks, taking out his notepad and pen. Joonmyun chuckles even as he slurps his noodles.

Joonmyun runs into Jongin when he heads back to the company after completely finishing his dinner (it took forever) and pleasing Luhan to no end. Jongin reeks of smoke, and guessing from the direction he’s coming from, he’s just been in the smoking room.

“Good evening,” Jongin nods his head; Joonmyun does the same.

Every part of Joonmyun seems to shake and his heart drops to the bottom of his stomach.

Even in the office, he can’t concentrate on watching the clips. He’s too overwhelmed with the sudden reappearance of Jongin in his life, and spent most of the day in denial until Jongin’s greeting hit him like a train all over again. During his fit of aggravation, he slams a few of the drawers and doors in the room while screaming at the top of his lungs.

He feels safer venting his frustration at times like this because everyone’s out for dinner or went home (no one is as much of a workaholic as Joonmyun) and he’s alone in this big empty space where only he can hear his own screams.

He screams until his throat hurts and his ears are ringing, and he sits back on the chair, staring at the black of the computer screen.

Jongin is standing outside the door, arms crossed and biting his lips in contemplation.

Jongin and his friend Kyungsoo are an extremely popular pair among the rest of the staff, not to mention they’re also skilled at their jobs and never waste any time. Joonmyun scowls just at the thought of having to admit that to himself.

He doesn’t like the smile that can’t seem to be wiped off of Jongin’s face whenever he’s next to Kyungsoo, and how friendly the two men are with each other. Bad, evil thoughts constantly slam into the lid of the box where Joonmyun keeps all his secrets and emotions locked in, hoping to break through. He doesn’t let them.

“Thanks for working so hard,” Joonmyun puts on his business smile for the two photographers after the director calls for a lunch break, handing them each bottled water.

“Thank you very much, you too,” Kyungsoo takes both bottles and gives one to Jongin, who’s staring at Joonmyun with a weary look.

Joonmyun retreats to the lounge. There’s a coffee on the table, signed by Kris’s chicken scratch handwriting for verification. The post-it next to the mug says:

Let’s talk in the office. Just you and me, okay?

Joonmyun peels the sticky note off the table, folds it into a neat square, and tosses it in the recycling bin. He brings the coffee with him as he boards the stairs, making sure not to move around too violently so the contents won’t slosh out.

He knocks on the door before going in. “What did you want to talk about?” Joonmyun asks, tentative. He remembers his tantrum a few days ago, and wonders if something of Kris’s broke.

Kris looks nothing but concerned. “Do you have anything you need to tell me?”

“…No.” This is dangerous territory. Has Kris found out something about Joonmyun he shouldn’t have?

“Do you and Jongin…know each other?”

A pit drops to somewhere in the bottom of Joonmyun’s stomach, and suddenly, the ticking of the clock gets louder in Joonmyun’s ears, as does the sound of his heartbeat. Badump, badump, badump. “Why are you asking?”

“I don’t know. It’s just that he’s come only for a few days and he’s already noticing things about you I’ve never thought about,” Kris replies. “He asked me if you had anger issues. Do you?”

Joonmyun’s not sure if he can breathe a sigh of relief just yet. “Maybe he’s never had a superior who gets angry as easily as me. He’ll get used to it after a while.”

“That’s not the answer to my question.”

Kris’s eyes are steady on him. The type of gaze Joonmyun finds himself hating more than anything else, because it means full attention and more than enough chances for him to feel exposed.

“No,” Joonmyun says promptly. “I don’t.” But he has a lot of stress, and anxiety that results from that stress, and then anger that falls on top of it all. Joonmyun is a whole load of problems, and even if he made an attempt to explain his life to Kris, he wouldn’t know where to start.

“After knowing you this many years, I still feel like we’re strangers sometimes,” Kris says. “I know some of your habits, but I don’t know anything about your personal life. Whether you’re dating someone, how your family’s doing, what you’re feeling half the time. It wouldn’t hurt to tell me about these kind of things, Joonmyun.”

He looks like he thinks it’s his fault he doesn’t know Joonmyun any better, and Joonmyun wants to reach out and pat his shoulder because no one should ever blame themselves for not knowing him well enough. Not when he’s the one that declines invitations to most get togethers, avoids revealing (or outright lies about) his whereabouts, and ends a conversation if it’s on the verge of making him feel too much. Like now. Right now is a good example.

“If that’s all you had to say, I’ll be leaving.” He should have left the coffee in the lounge.

He sits on the first step of the stairs, takes a sip of coffee and winces; it’s lukewarm.

Somehow, Joonmyun manages to put himself back together. He feels a lot more at ease on Tuesdays and Thursdays since those are the days that Jongin doesn’t come to work. Kyungsoo comes every day, unfortunately.

Kyungsoo glares at Joonmyun like he’s done terrible things even though it’s apparent they haven’t met before this project. Maybe they took the same train or happened to be eating at the same restaurant…but Joonmyun doesn’t do things to offend anyone in public. The only grudges he thinks are held over him are the ones where he yells at staff or actors in front of the rest of the production crew. He’s never done that to Kyungsoo. Not yet, at least.

Joonmyun feels distressed when people look as if they know him a lot better than they should. It’s worse than being stripped naked and bare, because even then he would still have his thoughts kept private and to himself. Kyungsoo looks at him as if his secrets are pasted across his forehead and emotions written all over his skin in ink.

Baekhyun is a comfort to him tonight (and a distraction from the disturbing behavior of Kyungsoo), since their schedules have been clashing lately and Joonmyun desperately misses the warmth of someone holding him.

In between nose nuzzling, Baekhyun asks, “Anything new?” His hand threads through Joonmyun’s hair gently.

“Let’s just stay like this for a while. Is that okay?” Joonmyun says, avoiding answering the question. It’d be a lot easier to tell someone just how choked and wrung out he feels on the inside (the words are ready on his tongue anyways) but he knows it’s better for him in the long run to keep his life clean cut, each part to its own.

“Yeah, it’s fine,” Baekhyun agrees, sensing Joonmyun’s anxious tone. “We can talk about it later if you want. Or never, for that matter.”

Joonmyun’s kisses start becoming too eager for him to keep on talking. Baekhyun pulls away and starts nibbling on the other man’s neck. “Should I leave a hickey?” he asks, and grins wolfishly as Joonmyun growls in protest.

“I will cut off your ball sack if you do,” Joonmyun’s voice comes out husky, so he doesn’t sound very convincing.

“Well then your favorite sex friend would be unable to have sexy times with you,” Baekhyun sticks out his tongue, and Joonmyun takes it as an invitation for another round of kisses.

“You’re still here,” Baekhyun says incredulously as Joonmyun gets up to put on the change of clothes he’d brought yesterday. Usually Joonmyun leaves right after lulling him into sleep, no matter how late at night (or early in the morning) it is.

“Is that a problem?” Joonmyun asks, pausing in the middle of buttoning his shirt, and Baekhyun shakes his head with a sigh.

“You’d make a nice boyfriend, you know.”

Joonmyun is stuck between telling him not to say stuff like that and asking why. He chooses the latter, because he’s genuinely curious. “What makes you think that?”

“Just a hunch. You’re handsome, funny, not a dick even for someone who creeps around at night to look for bedmates.”

Joonmyun laughs at the last part. “I’ll take that as a compliment, thanks.”

“Also, your name is guardian angel, and I believe you would live up to it,” Baekhyun makes a thumbs up at Joonmyun, making him laugh again.

Joonmyun gathers his things and shoves them inside his duffel bag. “Bye Baekhyun.”

“Do you…” Joonmyun stops at the door, still holding onto his cell phone and wallet.

“What is it?” he asks. Turning around, he watches Baekhyun try to reword his question because the sight of him smiling at Joonmyun is like a shining light in the midst of Joonmyun’s chaotic life. If his life was a little less complicated, maybe they’d be lovers. Maybe they would go on dates in broad daylight where people might notice them, like a trip to the amusement park or movies. Joonmyun would have someone to kiss every evening and every morning, someone that massaged the worry out of his shoulders and sucked the sadness out of his soul. But Joonmyun’s life is complicated, and he and Baekhyun don’t love each other.

“It’s nothing. Be safe,” Baekhyun finally says, giving a tiny wave. He has beautiful hands. Always has.

Joonmyun shrugs and leaves, but he feels like he’s missed something important.

“Cut, cut, cut,” Joonmyun hears from across the field. It’s the film director, Siwon, who’s shaking his head faster than anyone else he’s ever met. “That wasn’t quite the emotion I was looking for. It’s a little too much.”

The lead actress’s performance is a lot better these days. She doesn’t forget her lines as often and she’s always been patient to start with, so Kris and the others don’t have a hard time with her when giving her feedback.

A gust of wind blows through, making Joonmyun rub at his arms regretfully. He should have brought a jacket.

“Cold?” Jongin asks, and points at himself. “I have two, so you can wear one of them if you’d like.”

Joonmyun stares at the fleece. It’s a tempting offer, but he doesn’t want to say yes.

Jongin doesn’t really give him a chance to answer because he takes off his jacket and starts putting it on for Joonmyun. When Joonmyun finally reacts, he lightly pushes Jongin’s hands away, tucking his arms into the sleeves himself. The zipper gets stuck though, and then Jongin’s hands are on him again to zip it up all the way to Joonmyun’s neck, which Joonmyun thinks looks absolutely silly.

As if he sees through Joonmyun’s displeased expression, Jongin says, “No time to worry about looking stupid when you’re cold.” He smiles, and Joonmyun’s cheeks feel like they’re on fire.

When Jongin runs off with his camera and is just a speck in the distance, Joonmyun pulls on the hood and sniffs at it along with the sleeves. Jongin’s scent is either very mild cologne or laundry detergent, but whatever it is, it’s also mixed with the smell of heavy cigarette smoke. He smiles to himself secretively.

Joonmyun returns the jacket hours later, after filming has been completed and clean up of the set has finished. He’s in the middle of smelling the hood again when Jongin walks in and asks coolly, “Joonmyun-ssi?”

He freezes and then drops the hood. Once he notices where Jongin’s gaze is directed towards, he quickly takes off the jacket and folds it into a square before handing it back to Jongin.

“You’re still compulsive about having everything being neat,” Jongin says, tucking the jacket under his arm.

Joonmyun gets up abruptly, and the chair he’s sitting on makes a loud scraping noise across the floor as he heads towards the door. Jongin’s voice is what stops him. “Why do you keep doing this?”


Jongin’s eyes are indignant. “Avoiding me. You keep…aren’t we going to talk about the past?” He even drops the formal tone to his voice.

It is hard for Joonmyun to breathe, because the past is not something he’d like revisit. Ever. Jongin is a part of that past he’d like to take and stomp down into nothing more than torn bits of paper to throw away, but Jongin is standing here, asking him if they’re going to talk about it. The box in Joonmyun rattles angrily, the contents inside of it trying to break free from their prison.

“Like…” Jongin swallows. Joonmyun can see his Adam’s apple bob up and down. “Why you broke up with me. You never explained anything and just took off to college. Why you’ve changed so much. You up and changed into a totally different person. A stranger.”

The urge of throwing up is back. Joonmyun tells himself that he’s in control on a regular basis, but Jongin’s presence is a clear indicator that he’s not. He’s spent the last eight years hammering, hiding, biting down on memories that he doesn’t want revived, and Jongin merely showing up at his workplace is enough to shatter his composure. He’s so far from being okay, and he’s a lot closer to being out of control than in.

“No, let’s not talk about it,” Joonmyun says, shakily, backing away as Jongin reaches for his arm.

“Are you really going to be like this?”

“I am a stranger to you. Just think of it that way,” Joonmyun says, and he realizes his legs are trembling. He’s spent so much time and effort building a sea wall that folds in at the slightest push from salty waves. Jongin turns his stone barriers to paper with only a touch. “Don’t come closer!”

Jongin’s footsteps cease. “I deserve to know. It’s only fair.”

“Life isn’t fair, and just because you deserve something doesn’t always mean you get it,” Joonmyun replies, bitterness starting to grow in his lips and spreading across his mouth, leaving his tongue with a metallic taste. It’s an emotion he doesn’t usually reveal, amongst jealousy and other petty thoughts.

Jongin looks angry, and Joonmyun feels a surge of satisfaction well up inside his chest. Unlike Jongin, he’s used to injustices being thrown in his face left and right and having to accept them, so it’s only fair that Jongin gets a taste of what it’s like to be him. It’s only fair.

“You know, Sehun said you were a hardworking and good person. He compliments you all the time, yet I don’t see what he sees in you at all,” Jongin says, fingers curling around Joonmyun’s wrist.

What makes Joonmyun even more irritated than Jongin touching him is the fact that Jongin is touching him carefully, as if he cares whether Joonmyun’s hurt or not, as though Joonmyun’s a doll that can break at even the softest touch. He shakes Jongin off. “There’s a lot of things you won’t ever see in me, Jongin, because I won’t let you.”

Joonmyun is soon met with a rush of cold air as he storms out the main entrance of the building. His eyes start to burn, but he forces the feeling of wanting to cry back down and thinks about other things. But everything makes him want to scream and shout at the world for putting the odds against him, because he’s just one person and one person can only hold out by themselves for so long.

The looks on his parents’ faces when they realized their son was not the son they had hoped to raise, the sharp taunts and whispered remarks fellow students made when they’d found out Joonmyun was more than just the smooth class president of their grade, and the pure look of disappointment and heartbreak Jongin had given him when they broke up. No one had bothered to ask him if he was okay. Everyone assumed Kim Joonmyun was a stone pillar that would never fall, no matter how many sticks and stones you threw at him. But they were wrong. Joonmyun remembers all of his worst memories no matter how tightly he keeps them twisted up and stored in a dark corner of his heart. He’s tormented by them every day.

Jongin comes home later than usual that night, and Kyungsoo’s splayed out on the couch, having fallen asleep while reading a novel. The pages have somehow flattened and folded in the wrong places across his chest. Jongin takes the book and puts a place marker in it, then sets it on the coffee table so the spine won’t be damaged. “You’re back?” Kyungsoo rubs his eyes, scratching his stomach. “There’s dinner on the table.”

“I’m not hungry.”

“Kim Jongin, eat your proper meals or I will beat your ass.”

“You can’t even beat me in an arm wrestling match –” Jongin doesn’t get to finish his sentence and squeals as Kyungsoo leaps off of the couch. “No but really, I don’t have any appetite.”

“Did you get to talk to the asshole?” Kyungsoo asks, pushing Jongin in the direction of the kitchen so he can clean up the leftovers and put them in the fridge.

Jongin whips around. “Don’t call him that!”

“But both you and I, and a whole lot of other people can probably agree that he is a pretty big douchebag,” Kyungsoo argues, leaving Jongin unable to say anything back. “You’re in denial. That guy sounds nothing like the guy you dated in high school. Time has finally unleashed his true personality onto the rest of the world.”

“…He shakes.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

Jongin rubs at his neck. “I grabbed onto his arm while we were talking, and he was shaking. He hasn’t changed, Kyungsoo. He used to tremble exactly the same way whenever he was disturbed back then. Even if he doesn’t want me anymore, I’ll still get him to talk to me. I’ll find out what went wrong all those years before.”

“Still sounds like a dickhead to me. What kind of a boyfriend just dumps you and then never talks to you again during or after college? It’s like he wanted to erase you from his life.”

“Don’t say that!” Jongin slams the plastic container on the table. “You know how much I’ve wanted to see him all this time. Don’t say shit like that.”

Kyungsoo puts his hands up defensively. “It’s called being realistic. Did you know you were going to work for this guy’s film?”

Jongin nods. “It’s partially the reason I agreed to work for them. I heard Sehun mention his name, and then I asked for his profile, and it was him. It really was him.”

“Do you know? That guy never shows a real smile, or laughs,” Kyungsoo says, sounding puzzled. “The only smiles he bothers to put on his face are the ones he uses for group meetings and when he’s persuading the actors to redo a scene, and even those aren’t genuine. His smile is faker than my third aunt’s boobs, okay?”

Ignoring the comment about Kyungsoo’s distant relative, Jongin says, “If he’s really smiling, it’s not that obvious. His mouth is small, so you don’t really notice if anything changes with his lips until his eyes get smaller, into this crescent shape. You know?”

“You are a professional stalker, aren’t you?”

Jongin laughs. “Only for two years. Then I quit.”

When Jongin comes out from his bedroom later to dump out his ashtray, Kyungsoo nags. He’s been nagging for years but it’s not like Jongin ever listens. “I told you to stop smoking. You already know how toxic that stuff is for your health, we all learned about it in biology when we were forced to take it in high school.”

“It’s not like I can help it. It relieves stress,” Jongin likes the no-see, no-hear, no-speak policy best. He can successfully distract himself whenever he’s under huge pressure, while deftly ignoring the fact that his lungs are probably turning black and suffocating to death.

“There’s electronic ones, or lollipops. Toothpicks. God damn it, Jongin! I don’t want you to be in the hospital thirty years earlier than you should be,” Kyungsoo chucks a pillow at Jongin and he watches his friend dodge it with little effort.

Jongin knows Kyungsoo cares, and he wants to quit too, but it’s hard when smoking is a habit he can’t break even though it’s hurting him. A cigarette is the first thing he wants to get his hands on after work, more than anything else. He craves the act, the stench, it’s impossible to explain. He decides to settle for a compromise. “I’ll quit when I climb over this mountain and get Joonmyun to talk to me again. I promise.”

Kyungsoo is skeptical, but he gives Jongin the benefit of the doubt. “I’m counting on you, Kim Jongin.”

For once, Joonmyun won’t be lying if he says he’s visiting his parents. Cause he is. He’s visiting them to make the family dinner a complete one.

His father looks tired, even more tired than the last time Joonmyun saw him, with a few sections of hair that have turned from a silky black into a greying white. Cheekbones sunken and wrinkles as apparent as ever, the only thing that remains the same about the old man is his proud stature.

“How is your movie going? When it’s going to be finished?”

“It will be completed within a year, I think,” Joonmyun says. The steak on his plate looks bigger than the entire portion of food Luhan gives him in a meal. He stabs at it unconvincingly, earning a disapproving noise from his mother.

His mother’s aged, too. Even if she puts on makeup and claims that it does wonders with her skin, Joonmyun isn’t blind. He can see the worry etched throughout her forehead as she watches him eat and talk, and tries to analyze everything Joonmyun says beyond point of recognition. Her arms quiver when she leans over to serve food to Joonmyun’s brother and his wife, and she makes an expression every few minutes that Joonmyun knows is the sign of an unrelenting headache. Joonmyun thinks twice about details other people are too preoccupied to even notice.

“Are you dating anyone?” Joonmyun’s mother asks. Of course she would ask. He’s surprised she doesn’t call him every day to ask him that when it’s all she cares about.

“…No, I’ve been too busy with work,” Joonmyun responds, chewing his bite of steak rather reluctantly. He’d rather have fish, or the meatballs covered in sweet rice that Kris makes for him sometimes. Anything but expensive meat that doesn’t taste good to begin with.

“I’m sure you can find some time in your busy schedule to meet a girl,” she prods, gently. “I’d like to see more grandchildren soon.”

Joonmyun stares at his nephew sitting across from him in a high chair. The infant stares at him innocently, eyes already large and bright, just like his father. Joonmyun’s never going to have a child to bring home to his mother no matter how long she waits for him to.

“It takes a long time to meet someone amazing you want to spend the rest of your life with. Consider Joonkyung one of the luckier ones,” Joonmyun directs a radiant smile at his brother and sister-in-law. This is another part of him, the cheerful, praising, bubbly Joonmyun that appears whenever he needs to persuade his family that everything is fine. He is normal. A normal man who likes women and just hasn’t met one that he wants to marry yet.

It’s a bunch of bullshit, but his family drinks his honey covered lies like they haven’t seen water in ages.

When his parents heard the “truth” during Joonmyun’s senior year in high school, they didn’t react like Joonmyun thought they would.

Understanding. Accepting. Supportive. They’d been none of these things, far from it. Instead, they were ruthless in cracking down the so called discipline they thought would turn him back into the Joonmyun they knew, they wanted. “Are you insane?” Joonmyun’s father asked. “Gay? I didn’t spend money to feed you and clothe you and get you through school just to have you become gay all of a sudden, Joonmyun. Don’t joke around.”

Joonmyun was stunned. “But I’m not joking…”

The look on his father’s face felt like ice that had been sitting on his skin for too long and started to burn. Turning towards his mother, Joonmyun saw no inkling of compassion there either, only a pale face with round black eyes staring at him in disbelief. He had made a grave mistake.

“Joonmyun-ah, you’re not gay. You can’t be gay. Our child that we raised…won’t grow up to be like that, right?” she asked. She sounded hollow, and her voice was haunting, as if she was a toy that had been wound up too many times to stop playing its music.

His silence made them realize that he wasn’t playing around, and Joonmyun’s mother was the first to react, breaking down into tears as she covered her face with her hands. Her back was stooped, curved so harshly because she was crying into her knees, and Joonmyun thought to himself that he should have touched it one last time when he had the chance, before he went and ruined everything.

His father remained unmoving in the armchair, hands turned white from gripping the handles so hard. “Are you dating anyone?” he asked. It was a slow and cautious question that Joonmyun dared not answer truthfully.

“No,” he said, even as Jongin came to mind.

“Then there isn’t a problem, is there? You’re just confused since you don’t meet a lot of girls in your school. It’s a phase.”

The last word hit Joonmyun like a blow to his stomach, a blunt accusation of his supposed foolishness, and his entire body shook with anger. “It’s not a phase!”

“In this house it is,” his father replied. “If you keep insisting on being like this, I’ll disown you and cut off your college expenses.”

Joonmyun wanted to take a bar and break everything in this house. This household that he’d grown up in since childhood and always called “home” was no longer the place for someone like him.

There was a brief moment when Joonmyun thought back to the time he was in sixth grade and had come home to his mother making his favorite bean cake. “Here, I just finished!” she said, cutting off a piece and stuffing it into Joonmyun’s open mouth, smiling after Joonmyun chewed diligently and told her it tasted delicious.

“Joonmyun, don’t do this to us.” Joonmyun was pulled back into the present as his mother stopped crying enough to speak a few words. “All I ever wanted for you was to get married, get a nice job, and have children. Live a normal life.”

He stayed silent, and watched his mother cry a little longer before returning to his bedroom.

Joonmyun shut himself in after that. He followed all of his parents’ wishes except for one; he decided to study in a film program instead of engineering. It’d be weird if he even followed that hope of theirs, he’d been fighting and fighting for permission for years and suddenly giving that dream up would have made them suspicious.

He felt empty inside, like a house that’d been abandoned for years but still kept pretty on the outside, with a mowed lawn and trimmed rosebushes. A corpse that could still walk around, and talk, and pretend it was breathing.

The night before his first day of college, his father had come in his room, saying, “Joonmyun-ah.”

It was supposed to sound affectionate, but Joonmyun was tempted to turn the volume in his earphones higher. He didn’t, and turned around to face his father. “What is it?”

“Do you still think you’re gay?”

“No,” Joonmyun said, and smiled sweetly. “I guess it was just a phase after all.”

The proud smile on his father’s face made Joonmyun want to break things again.

part II , part III , part IV

Tags: sukai
Comments for this post were disabled by the author