Joonmyun was greeted by a large smile from Chanyeol as he walked into their usual function room with a gift in hand. Everyone was there for Chanyeol's birthday, even Yixing who had to go to Korea for an endorsement deal. Joonmyun sat beside him that night.
"How are you?" asked Yixing as they waited for the food they ordered. Joonmyun shrugged, focusing more on how Yixing looked. It had been months since they last saw each other, but he was looking more and more tired each time. Yixing was always a workaholic; Joonmyun thought that would change when he was free to take his career in whatever direction he wanted.
"I should be asking that to you," Joonmyun said. "You look… well, for the lack of a better word, awful."
Yixing chuckled, taking a shot of soju. "Thanks, Joonmyun. I appreciate that." He shook off the comment and leaned back in his seat. "I miss Korea. I've only been here about five times in the past two years."
"Really? So work's keeping you busy now?"
Yixing raised an eyebrow. "I should be asking that to you." Joonmyun didn't like what that slight smirk could mean. "How's Yifan?"
That caught the entire group's attention. Joonmyun shifted in his seat. "He's fine, but you would know that. You never stopped contacting him."
"But you did," Kyungsoo said. "And most of us too, but we've reconnected with all of them over the years."
"So did I." It took Joonmyun a few months before he could find the confidence to send Lu Han a message. They were never exceptionally close, but Joonmyun found comfort in hearing his voice again. Lu Han became so popular in China and it got more and more difficult for him to find time to breathe, but he often called Yixing and Minseok. They would hide in the bathroom, but everyone knew his voice even from their tinny phone speakers.
Zitao reached out to Joonmyun first. He was a lot braver than Joonmyun expected, and even if he was a little hurt when Zitao told him he wanted to leave, he knew it was for the best. He'd have video calls with him, and Sehun would tag along, eventually stealing the tablet for himself. Joonmyun missed him the most.
"Not with Yifan," said Yixing. His smile said enough; he knew something. Joonmyun didn't want to find out anymore.
Sehun showed his phone to the group. It was from Joonmyun's fan café, a picture of him with Yifan from the night before in their usual café. Joonmyun didn't even notice that someone caught them. They were talking, smiles on their faces as they leaned low and close together. They looked amicable. Comfortable.
Joonmyun remembered talking about Sehun's prissy dog. Yifan noted that it was just as bratty as its owner. They laughed. Yifan inched closer. Joonmyun didn't care anymore.
"You look comfortable," Minseok said. The rest of the table looked at Joonmyun with concern because they knew he suffered the most from Yifan's departure. Minseok looked at Joonmyun with concern because he knew why he suffered the most from Yifan's departure.
Minseok knew why Yifan was a little gentler with Joonmyun, even from their pre-debut days. He knew why they would spend an extra minute or so in the dorms before they had to leave for pre-recordings or interviews. He knew why Joonmyun cried alone in the bathroom a few weeks before Yifan said he was scheduled to leave.
Joonmyun knew others probably had an inkling, but they were good enough friends in the first place to pretend that their closeness was just due to friendship and their shared burden. Minseok caught them as their relationship bloomed, and he knew better.
"How is he?" Sehun asked. He was close to Yifan too; Joonmyun remembered him crying on Joonmyun's sleeve when the news was broken to the entire team. "I mean, I've spoken to him on the phone before, but it's different when you've been working with him for the past month."
"Well," Joonmyun smiled to himself, "he's still Yifan. Kind of dorky, same stupid stories, except they're all about his blunders instead of ours. He's…" Joonmyun paused and thought of something to say. "He's Yifan. A little older, a little wiser, but the essentials haven't changed."
He stared blankly at the table in front of him. They've been working together almost nonstop for the past six weeks; was that all he could say? They talked and talked and built a vulnerable foundation for a relationship, and Joonmyun could say he was comfortable with Yifan. Were they friends? They always were.
"Hey, food's here!" Chanyeol yelled, just to break the tension. He smiled at Joonmyun; he knew too. He was their go-between sometimes, and Joonmyun knew he was a good friend. They dropped the subject, and Joonmyun spent the rest of the night in comfortable silence, laughing when it was appropriate and talking only when he felt like he needed to.
Joonmyun hid on the balcony as they started bringing out the drinks. Baekhyun and Jongdae were roasting Chanyeol, and Joonmyun wasn't festive enough to join in or pretend like he was in the mood for it. He stared at the sky as he nursed his can of beer.
"You okay?" asked a voice from behind him. Yixing. He leaned on the railing and faced Joonmyun. "They were looking for you. I said I'd go out and ask."
"I’m fine," Joonmyun said. It wasn't a lie. "Just felt like drinking alone."
Yixing dropped the subject after that, giving a thumbs up to the guys through the glass doors that separated them. He stood beside Joonmyun and silently drank his glass of whatever. Joonmyun noted that he wasn't usually a heavy drinker, but his tolerance probably grew over time. That's good. Joonmyun was always the worst drinker of the bunch.
"Why'd you ask?" Joonmyun turned his head to the side. Yixing stared at him blankly. "About Yifan. Why did you bring it up?"
Yixing shrugged. "I was curious. None of us had the pleasure of working with any of the members that left yet, except for you."
"Yixing," Joonmyun deadpanned.
He slung his arm over Joonmyun's shoulder. "Come on; is it so surprising that I'm concerned about my friend?" Joonmyun's blank stare brought a chuckle to Yixing's lips. "Alright, fine. I spoke to Yifan recently."
"He's happy to be working with you," said Yixing, dropping his arm. "He talked about being able to talk to you comfortably again. He said he was afraid of approaching you, but you've always had a soft spot for him." Yixing's eyes twinkled. "We all knew that."
"What do you mean?" Joonmyun's eyes narrowed.
"You weren't very subtle about it. I knew that you two were in a relationship long before he told me that night." Yixing stared out at the view before them. "You're right; I never lost contact with Yifan. He confessed to me about it years ago. Said it was the 'worst part about leaving.' He loved you."
Joonmyun winced at those words. It hurt more because he never said them to Yifan, never heard it from him either. They just agreed that… things were complicated enough. Saying that they loved each other would make things worse, even if they knew it anyway.
Joonmyun knew it with every look they shared. Joonmyun felt it with every touch, every kiss, every moment that Yifan took to hold his hand. There was so much of it that Joonmyun never doubted Yifan felt the same way, not for a moment.
"Well," Joonmyun leaned forward, resting his forehead on the railing, "can't do anything about that now."
"Are you sure about that?" Yixing's teasing smile made Joonmyun laugh. "You never know."
"But I do. We were kids then," Joonmyun said. "We didn't know what we were doing."
"You do now. You're not young anymore; you don't have as much time to mess up anymore." Yixing nudged him. "Don't make the same mistakes again and again."
"Exactly, Yixing." Joonmyun stepped back. "That relationship was a mistake. Coming back to it? Strike two. I'm not going through that again."
Yixing shrugged. "Alright then. I'm just saying—"
"When did you become some sort of relationship expert? Is it because you're in a 'happily committed relationship?'" Joonmyun teased, just to get him off his back. "I read up on you in Chinese tabloids. You're," Joonmyun snorted, "a 'wild lover,' to say the least."
Yixing laughed openly, finishing his drink in discomfort. "That's, well… a publicity stunt. We're scheduled to break up in three weeks."
"Oh, yikes." Joonmyun bit his lip. "Sorry about that."
"No problem. Besides," Yixing placed a hand in Joonmyun's back pocket and slid closer, "you'd know a lot about me being a 'wild lover,' wouldn't you?"
Joonmyun laughed and pushed him away, looking back at the rest of the group who were in their own world. "Shove off. That was a mistake too."
"Hey, we didn't just sleep around," said Yixing, voice growing softer. "We talked. I stayed because I had you to talk to when I was feeling like shit."
"Which was often, mind you," Joonmyun said. He gave Yixing a long hug, resting his forehead on Yixing's shoulder. "I'm glad you're happy now."
"We're all in a much better place than we were in 2016." Yixing pulled away. "You are happy, right?"
He paused, long enough to give it some thought but short enough to make it seem genuine. "Happy enough." Joonmyun smiled at the ground. "Come on; let's go back in."
"Actually, I have to go back to my hotel." Yixing looked at his watch. "I'll say goodbye to the rest of them. I'll call you soon."
"When you break up with your girlfriend of seven months?" teased Joonmyun.
"I'm going to need all the support I can get," Yixing said in mock-hurt. He waved at Joonmyun before going into the room with the others. Joonmyun went back to his beer, faced the city, and sighed to himself.
He thought about Yifan for a split second, but the headache that it caused him wasn't worth it. He went back in the room, joined the laughter, and ignored Yixing's implications that there could be something, that there was something to come back to if he ever decided to entertain that thought with Yifan again. Joonmyun was older, wiser too.
He wasn't supposed to give it a second thought at all.
Joonmyun needed to satisfy himself.
He needed warm hands and soft lips and silent moans that would consume him until he could forget, just for a good minute or two. He gave up on finding a good relationship after too many failed dates and attempts that never lasted for more than a few weeks.
Joonmyun was tired. He was tired of searching for something that would never be the same again for him. Yifan was his first in everything. As much as he wanted to forget that aspect of their relationship, he couldn't. He loved Yifan. They never said it out loud, but all Joonmyun needed then was to feel like that again.
But he couldn't. He dated guys and girls, celebrities and fans and random people he met for some reason, and none of them satisfied his need for stability and trust. So he settled for second best: sex.
Which wasn't bad. It was never bad. Joonmyun got around, went out at night, wandered the various cities they went to in their tours, and found his fix whenever he wanted to. Better yet, he knew he would never have to meet any of these strangers again. Attachment was impossible; Joonmyun liked it that way.
It only became bad when he found satisfaction from a source too close to home. Yixing was just as tired, just as empty as Joonmyun was. Probably worse, knowing how SM overworked him so he could pay his debt for having a studio and solo activities in China. He wanted success? He was going to get it, sure, but he was going to pay the price.
The last time they saw each other was in late December. They had a day after their concert to wander around before Yixing went home to Changsha and the rest of them went back to Korea. Yixing was lucky to even get a break.
They were roomed together in Dalian. Yixing arrived a little later than the rest of the group, coming straight from filming in Beijing and hopping on a plane right away. Joonmyun was startled at the figure on his bed when he came back from a quick meeting with the managers, but his shoulders lost tension as he heard Yixing's soft snoring.
"Hey," Joonmyun said softly, nudging him awake. Yixing rolled over, wincing at the dull light from the entry hallway. Joonmyun stroked his hair, suddenly fond. They were never particularly close, but Joonmyun couldn't help but soften at the way he rubbed his eyes and sat up.
"What time is it?" he asked as he struggled to keep his eyes open.
Joonmyun pulled his hands down. "Stop rubbing your eyes. Our makeup artists don't want to deal with premature wrinkles."
Yixing snorted. "Add that to the growing list of imperfections they have to cover up." He stood and started peeling off his clothes. "I’m taking a shower."
Joonmyun hummed in response, kicking off his outer layers and crawling under the covers. His mind briefly regarded the mess he left on the floor, but Yixing was never the type to nag him about being a slob. Hell, that's why they got along just fine. They skirted around in each other's comfort zones, never really provoking the other or calling their attention. Yixing would tease him onstage, and Joonmyun would hold him up whenever he was working himself too hard.
And at a very low period in all of their lives, Joonmyun asked if he wanted to go. If he was going to leave, just like Lu Han, his best friend.
“Just like Yifan," Joonmyun had said. He was spiteful because Yixing knew. He knew long before the two announced their intentions to the higher ups. He could have warned Joonmyun, helped him make them stay, but he was just as awful as all of them, whether he stayed or not—
Needless to say, they both regretted that conversation.
That was two years ago. Now Yixing came out of the bathroom, clad only in his boxers and a towel around his hair. He fell beside Joonmyun, too lazy to make the two-meter walk to the other bed.
"Get your wet hair off my pillow," Joonmyun muttered against the softness of the duvet.
"Make me," Yixing said without heat, quickly drying his hair with the towel to avoid any physical altercation with a cranky Joonmyun. Joonmyun tried kicking him off, but Yixing managed to roll over and trap Joonmyun's legs under his ass. Joonmyun groaned, tapping out and moving his legs to keep them from cramping.
Yixing settled down beside him and threw the towel to the side. "How are you?" he asked.
"I should be asking that to you," Joonmyun teased. "How's the solo life?"
Yixing chuckled. "'I'm not going solo; I'm here as a member of EXO, for as long as my brothers and I are together.'"
"Save the speech for the cameras, Zhang Yixing," said Joonmyun. He turned to his side and leaned his head on his hand. "You look tired."
"As usual." Yixing smiled softly with his eyes glazed over as if his mind was already in a far-off place. "Aren't we always?"
"It's getting better, I think." Joonmyun didn't believe his own words. "We're just getting used to it."
Yixing stretched, turning his body and inching closer to Joonmyun. "We need a long, stress-free vacation."
"Or just a quick break," said Joonmyun. Yixing took his hand and slowly massaged it, calloused fingers deftly digging into his flesh. Joonmyun hummed in contentment. "Need a break, a way to relieve all this stress and tension."
"Massage?" Joonmyun hummed again, closing his eyes as Yixing moved his hand up to his forearm. "Sex?"
Joonmyun snorted and shoved Yixing away, laughing as Yixing had the gall to act offended. "Fuck off."
"Hey, I'm serious!" Yixing stood up defiantly, with the dim light from the hallway casting gorgeous shadows on the lean muscle of his body. Which Joonmyun had seen before. It wasn't anything new; it just… wasn't an option before.
But now? It was a little intriguing, to say the least.
"Are you really?" asked Joonmyun. Not timid, not daring, just… curious. With the way Yixing's tongue darted out quickly to swipe against his lips, Joonmyun could say he was curious too. A little interested, maybe.
Yixing leaned forward and forced Joonmyun to sit up against the headboard. "It seems fun."
"Yeah?" Joonmyun cupped his cheek, fitting his fingers behind Yixing's ear. He liked the touch, leaning in towards Joonmyun's shaking hand. Wait, when did he start getting nervous?
Yixing kneeled on the bed; his hands found the hem of Joonmyun's shirt in a mere second. "It's nothing big. We're just releasing stress, that's all."
"True," Joonmyun whispered. He leaned up a bit, and Yixing's eyes fluttered as the breaths mingled. "No need to make it weird, right?"
"Agreed," Yixing muttered against Joonmyun's lips, and they really weren't able to say much for the rest of the night.
Yixing, as Joonmyun noted that night, was just as fluid and sensual in bed as he was onstage. Joonmyun knew his smooth movements would translate well into sex, and he liked how easy it was to let go when it came to Yixing. As good as it felt physically, he knew there wasn't any attachment or feelings to weigh him down when he was just having some mindless—mind-blowing—sex.
They laughed afterwards, passing a bottle of water back and forth as they teased and joked around. Joonmyun alluded to a next time, and Yixing replied with a smirk and an intrigued look in his eyes. Oh, there definitely would be a next time.
It went on for a good part of the year, keeping them nice and sated every time they were in the same city. Yixing was the ideal person to do this with; they were close enough for it to be good and comfortable, but not close enough that it would devastate either of them if anything went wrong. Yixing never got too touchy with Joonmyun outside their hotel rooms, and Joonmyun still gave Yixing the comfort that he needed when the pressure on him to succeed alone was getting too much.
They talked often, before and after sex usually. Yixing sometimes stuttered and stumbled with his Korean, but Joonmyun stayed there with Yixing's head on his lap to wait until he could get his anxiety out in whatever language he could manage. When he grew too tired for words, he'd lean up for a kiss and that was it. Talking's over.
And Joonmyun? Well, he just needed to be needed. Wanted the thrill, the touch, and the feeling that someone thought he was valuable, important. Sex with Yixing would always feel good, one way or another, but what he was after were the moments after when they would sit there in companionable silence.
"I want to leave," said Yixing, voice raw after sex. They were never very vocal, but Yixing was exhausted nonetheless.
It was their second comeback of the year, and Yixing was flying back and forth between Korea and China to fulfill promotions and endorsements here and there. Joonmyun looked at him, not with anger or betrayal, but deep understanding.
"If that's what you think is best," Joonmyun whispered, "do it."
"I won't," Yixing said. "I want to, but I won't. I just— needed to say it."
Joonmyun sighed in relief. He was tired of picking up after everyone. He was tired of having to deal with the aftermath of each scandal, each problem that his bandmates caused. He wanted to leave, but he was still their leader. He was the only one they had left.
They didn't sleep around much after that. Joonmyun kept to his comfort zone, and Yixing stayed in his. They would tease and play around onstage, but Joonmyun felt Yixing's unease in every fanservice action they had to do. He never actually left—thank goodness, Joonmyun thought—but Joonmyun felt like he always had one foot out the door.
And Joonmyun? He was still sick of expecting anything from others, so he went into every late night date with no expectations, no strings attached. It was… lonely, to say the least. Sometimes he wished he could be more: more for Yifan, maybe he would have stayed; more for Yixing, maybe there could have been something; and more for all the random strangers that walked in and out of motel rooms with him, maybe there could have been someone, anyone, who would stay.
Slowly, he just gave up. And slowly, when he closed his heart and let himself grow cold and numb, being alone felt okay.
"It's freezing out here."
Joonmyun turned his head to the side, wincing as some of the sand blew past his face. Yifan was behind him, a few feet away as he tried to stay away from the winter sea. "Then go back inside and film," said Joonmyun, and he faced the sea again.
He finished his scenes in the vacation house about an hour ago, and he used up his time on the beach to sit by the waves and breathe. It reminded him of a lot of things in the past, and Yifan's voice only brought shivers to his already-cold body. He sat beside Joonmyun, all bundled up in his thermal coat, and they stayed there in silence.
"I always think of you when I'm near the sea," Joonmyun blurted out. It seemed fitting to start talking about it now. They had been dancing around each other and building a foundation for a new relationship for the past few weeks. Joonmyun knew the man he was seated beside again, and the time was right. He felt like it was right.
"Yeah?" Yifan said, turning his head to gaze at Joonmyun's profile. "What do you think of?"
"That time," Joonmyun smiled, "when you went into the sea for a reality show."
Yifan chuckled. "It was freezing." Joonmyun looked up at him. "I did it for you."
"You did it for the producers," said Joonmyun.
"I did it," Yifan said with a little more emphasis, “for you."
Joonmyun looked away. Too much. Too soon.
"I was hard on you," Joonmyun shifted topics. "I was angry and bitter and I made this experience difficult for both of us at the beginning."
"It's not entirely your fault. I could have reached out. You were right; I was afraid of approaching you," said Yifan. "I could speak to all the others, but you were the person I hurt the most. I still live with that guilt every time I see you."
"I know that. I know. But let's stop playing the blame game on the past nine years. That was then. This is now." Joonmyun leaned closer to Yifan when a breeze of cold wind passed by them. When their shoulders bumped, Joonmyun stayed there and let Yifan inch closer to share some warmth. "Let's start again."
Yifan looked at him again; this time, Joonmyun wasn't afraid to meet his eyes. "Sounds good to me."
They smiled, enveloped in silence and cold air once again. It's more comfortable now. Joonmyun can breathe easier. Hell, that entire conversation went smoother than how he expected it to go. They've been working together for well over two months; Joonmyun knew him just as well as they knew each other before, except it's all different still.
But they agreed to start again. Joonmyun refused to dwell on their past, even though it was his safeguard against the warmth that never failed to blossom in his chest as he returned Yifan's smile. Yifan stood up and held a hand out, helping Joonmyun up. "Let's go."
"Where?" Yifan was still holding his hand, dragging him towards the waves. "I don't like where this is going."
Yifan grinned. "Just a little payback."
Joonmyun glared at him, but he couldn't stop the smile from spreading on his face. "Let me take off my coat at least!"
"No way. You're not running from me now." And the eagerness in Yifan's voice stopped Joonmyun from doing just that. He slipped off his coat and took Yifan's hand again, bracing himself from the freeze. "Don't worry; I'm coming in with you."
They held each other's forearms as they neared the waves. Joonmyun's shoes and coat were safe from the water, but his teeth were chattering as the wind grew stronger. Yifan looked like a pro, tensing up only when the water touched his feet.
Joonmyun yelped as the waves licked at his shins, and Yifan laughed as he jumped up to avoid the waves. Yifan ended up holding Joonmyun close as a particularly large wave crept up the shores, and they both stumbled at the impact of the water. Joonmyun laughed, wrapping his arms tightly around Yifan's waist in the heat of the moment.
They were wet from the waist down, and Joonmyun gasped as a strong gust of wind blew through them after another chilling wave of water. Yifan was holding him close too, clutching at his shoulders and stroking his hair as Joonmyun leaned against his chest. Joonmyun just laughed, a little giddy and careless for a moment.
"Get off me," he teased, and they started walking back to their clothes, only running when another big wave approached. Joonmyun collapsed on the sand, still giggling as he used his coat as a pillow. Yifan sat beside him, and he used his hand to block the glare of the sun on the horizon.
"Missed this," Yifan muttered. Joonmyun didn't know if he was referring to the beach or to the light feeling between them. "I missed your laugh. I missed doing stupid things for fun."
Joonmyun ignored the first part. "So you miss being young?"
"Somewhat." Yifan shrugged. "But back then, each little action had such ridiculous repercussions. We couldn't do anything we wanted to do."
"That didn't stop us." Joonmyun didn't know why he brought it up, and he rolled his eyes at how Yifan smirked at him. He looked away, ducking to hide the laugh bubbling in his throat and the smile that took over his face. Joonmyun stood up to avoid the conversation he knew was going to happen. He also tried to avoid the way Yifan smiled at him, and how the fluttering in his chest refused to stop.
"Let's get towels," said Joonmyun. They walked back to the trailers, shoving each other aside and laughing at every step of the way. The stylists noted the light atmosphere between the two and wordlessly handed them fresh clothes to change into.
When Joonmyun put down the towel he used to dry his hair, Yifan was across the room, staring at him absently. Joonmyun cocked an eyebrow, chuckling as Yifan suddenly looked away and rubbed the back of his neck.
Joonmyun bowed his head and smiled to himself. Let's start again.
They didn't need to film anything for the day, so Joonmyun invited Yifan for a walk along the river. This was something they used to do together as trainees, and the weather was warm enough that night for them to walk comfortably by each other's side.
They didn't have a plan or a destination. They didn't have anything to do, anything to hide from. Joonmyun asked himself why he called Yifan up in the first place when they both looked like they could use some rest, but with each brush of Yifan's gloved fingers against his arm, it dawned on him that maybe he just needed someone to be with. Maybe he just didn't want to be alone anymore.
"How is everyone?" asked Yifan. He didn't have to specify; Joonmyun knew who he was talking about.
It came out of nowhere, really. He liked how they fell back into simple patterns in each other's lives, and Joonmyun could talk freely and tease endlessly and laugh with a friend. A good friend. Sometimes Joonmyun wanted to forget about everything in their past; he wanted to keep Yifan in a little bubble in his present life.
Then Yifan brought EXO up, and Joonmyun stiffened. "They're fine. You would know that." Joonmyun bristled at his own tone.
"I haven't seen most of them in years," Yifan said. Pensive. Longing.
Joonmyun paused for a second. "You could."
Joonmyun rubbed the back of his neck. "I just remembered that we're meeting up for dinner later. It's Kyungsoo's treat; his latest movie was really successful."
"I watched it. He's always been the best actor," Yifan said with a twinge of something Joonmyun couldn't quite place. Maybe he was talking about Kyungsoo's skill, or maybe he was talking about how Kyungsoo never wanted to be an idol in the first place, but he stuck to it until he found individual success. Unlike Yifan.
"You could come with me," Joonmyun said. "I'm sure they'd like to see you while you're still in Korea."
Yifan shifted uncomfortably, not meeting Joonmyun's eyes. "It would be… awkward. It's better if I don't."
"Come on. We've stopped being awkward, and it was nine years since we last spoke. I'm sure you've had enough contact with them over the years for it to be a lot better than our reunion."
Yifan winced. Joonmyun groaned internally, suddenly realizing what that sounded like. He placed a hand on Yifan's shoulder. "Hey. I didn't mean to say it that way. What I meant was— we're okay now. And it's going to ease up with them if you show up to dinner tonight."
Yifan placed his hand over Joonmyun's and squeezed tightly. "Maybe next time."
Joonmyun squeezed back. "Yifan, I'm not just being nice. I do want you to be there."
"Me too," said Yifan, but he let go of Joonmyun's hand. "Maybe next time," he repeated.
He slung his arm over Joonmyun's shoulders and pulled him closer, noting how they both shivered at the chilly air and the warmth that they shared with the slight touch. "Let's keep walking. I'll help you get a cab."
Joonmyun pulled back and took Yifan's hand in his, intertwining their fingers as they always did when they went out at night as trainees. He survived many cold nights with Yifan's touch keeping him safe and warm. Yifan's eyes widened a bit, but he held on tighter as they walked against the cold breeze.
"I'll text you the address of the restaurant," Joonmyun said as soon as Yifan thought he would drop the issue. "If you ever change your mind, there'll be a seat for you there. Beside me, if you're scared of being alone."
"But I won't?"
Joonmyun smiled. "Yeah. I won't let you. And they'll be glad to see you, despite what you think."
The cab stopped before them, and Joonmyun slid his hand away from Yifan's. "I'll see you soon."
"Yeah. Take care." Yifan smiled and waved at him as the cab drove away.
Joonmyun spaced out on the cab ride, when he arrived at the restaurant, even as they were eating already. Chanyeol placed a hand on his back, shooting him a look as Joonmyun stared at the piece of beef on his plate. "You okay?"
He smiled, shrugging off Chanyeol's touch. "It's nothing." Joonmyun glanced at the clock; it's way too late for Yifan to make an appearance now. At least he tried.
"You've been spacing out all night," said Kyungsoo. "You're tired."
"You know what will fix this?" Baekhyun said with a dangerous glint in his eyes.
Jongdae groaned. "Please don't say alcohol."
"Well, besides alcohol," Baekhyun chuckled, "does noraebang sound good to anyone?"
Chanyeol and Jongin cheered while Kyungsoo sighed and pulled out his credit card. "Let's get this over with."
They all started talking animatedly about what they wanted to do that night, all the songs they wanted to sing, all the chicken Jongin wanted to order, how much Kyungsoo felt like strangling Baekhyun; the usual topics. Joonmyun, as usual, stared deep into the dark screen of his phone.
"You're spacing out again," said Minseok. He smiled as Joonmyun shook off his concern. He leaned closer. "Tell me what's going on with you."
"It's nothing," he whispered. "I am just tired from filming all week. Today's been my only break."
Minseok raised an eyebrow, as curious and concerned as he usually was. "You sure that's it?"
"Yeah, I'm sure." Joonmyun turned away and took his coat. "Come on; let's get drunk."
They couldn't stop Joonmyun even if they tried. He was deep into his sixth drink of the night. Everyone else wasn't doing much better; Jongdae and Baekhyun were screaming into the mic, Minseok and Jongin left before anything worse happened, Kyungsoo was staring blankly at the wall, and Chanyeol was lying down with his head on Joonmyun's lap, rambling endlessly about his new girlfriend.
"I love her," he moaned, clutching his phone against his chest. "She's brilliant and funny and talented and she— she gets me, you know?"
Joonmyun made a sound of acknowledgment. This girl was Chanyeol's third girlfriend of the year, and honestly, it didn't seem like it was going to last. She was a trainee, a twenty-one-year-old, who was way too young for a serious relationship. Chanyeol never had any luck at all with relationships; they wouldn't be surprised if they would break up a week later.
Chanyeol sat up, and he threatened to heave with the sudden movement. "I'm going to propose."
"Please don't," said Kyungsoo.
"We're going to get married. Next week." He stood up and shakily walked towards the door. "I'm going to propose tonight."
“Please don't." Kyungsoo dragged him back down and handed him a paper bag just in case he really did start throwing up. Chanyeol threw a tantrum on the couch, and Joonmyun and Kyungsoo had to hold him down before he went out and did something stupid, like propose to a girl who was probably using his status as a famous producer to get ahead in the game.
He started throwing up a few minutes later. Joonmyun groaned. "I'm not nearly drunk enough for this."
"I'm completely sober and I feel like I'm going to die," Kyungsoo said, slowly rubbing Chanyeol's back as he let out all of the contents of his stomach. "I'm taking all of you home before this gets worse."
"Take us too," Baekhyun grumbled. He stumbled all the way to the door, dragging Jongdae with him.
Kyungsoo ushered the three of them out. He looked back at Joonmyun who was suddenly quiet as the opening chords of a perky pop song started playing. "Get home safe, yeah?"
Joonmyun looked up, and his eyes looked dimmer as he was surrounded by happy noise. "You too."
Joonmyun sat there, drunk and craving for something he didn't know. He wanted to drink more, to talk to someone, to scream at the empty room. Alcohol was a bad, bad, bad idea. He took out his phone and blindly called his most recent contact.
“Hello?" a groggy voice said. Yifan was sleeping—of course he was—but Joonmyun was a little too drunk to care.
"Fuck. I'm sorry," Joonmyun slurred. "I shouldn't have done this."
"This sucks. I missed you." Joonmyun leaned back against the couch and stretched his legs. The silence on the phone was covered up by the loud music still blaring on the speakers. Joonmyun got a half-empty can of beer and started drinking again.
“… Are you drunk?" Yifan paused. “Do you need me to pick you up?"
"I can take of myself, thank you very much." Joonmyun hiccupped. He started laughing, tears threatening to spill out of his eyes. He didn't know what was going on, what he was thinking, what he wanted to say, why he needed to call Yifan in the first place.
Yifan was silent again, but Joonmyun could hear movement from his side. “Are you still in the restaurant you texted me the address to? Obviously not; you can't be this drunk in such a public place."
"Noraebang. Across the street. Room 7." Joonmyun dropped the phone, opting to pass out and hope that no one would kick him out or take a bad photo of him and send it to Dispatch or something. He was too tired for that shit.
And he woke up to fingers in his hair and arms holding him close to a warm body. It was Yifan—of course it was—and it took him seven seconds before he was able to move his head by an inch.
They were in Yifan's apartment. Yifan had his head tilted back, snoring unattractively with his mouth gaping open. They were both on the couch; it was probably too much effort for Yifan to drag him to the couch and make his way to his room.
Or Joonmyun, in his horribly drunken state, begged him to stay. It probably wasn't far from the truth.
Joonmyun tried to pry himself out of Yifan's embrace, but his head was throbbing terribly. He was clearly too old to be drinking like this. He groaned as the light from behind the blinds triggered another painful throb, and Yifan roused as he rolled down to the floor to cover his eyes.
"What the hell's going on?" mumbled Yifan.
He groaned at the sound of his voice. "Get me some painkillers and water."
Yifan stood up shakily and made his way to the kitchen. He helped Joonmyun sit up and sat across him on the floor as he took the medicine and finished the glass of water. Yifan increased the tint on the windows and dimmed the lights. It was past eight in the morning, but it was good that neither of them had a schedule to attend to for that day.
"What was that about?" Yifan asked. Joonmyun stared at him blankly, wondering what the hell he was referring to. “Last night. You called me all of a sudden, said you missed me, and now we're here."
Joonmyun buried his head in his hands. "What else did I say?" he muttered against his wrist.
"You said you missed me. You said you wished I was with you all night. You, uh," Yifan chuckled, "you wished that Chanyeol would be miserable."
"I said that?" Joonmyun couldn't help but smile.
"Yes, you did. Said he was an 'obnoxious asshole that loved to rub his happy life in your face even if it's never going to last,'" Yifan said with matching air quotes. "He should get married and live a horribly happy life far, far away from your miserable one."
Joonmyun laughed, taking a pillow and hiding his face behind it. When he looked up, Yifan was smiling at him with that expression that Joonmyun could never put a finger on. He never understood why Yifan's eyes were so soft, why his gummy smile dimmed down to a gentle curve of his plush lips that were neither cocky nor amused. He didn't want to anymore.
"What were you talking about, really?" asked Yifan. Joonmyun sobered up at the tone of his voice. "When you said you missed me, I didn't get it. We've been working together for months, talking and staying together and everything. It doesn't make sense."
Joonmyun sighed, and he leaned his head against the edge of the couch. He didn't know where to start, how to say it. "I missed… having you around in my life the way we were before. It's stupid because that was ages ago, but I haven't stopped wanting you that way."
“No, not like that!" Joonmyun bit his lip to hold back his smile. Yifan was doing the same. "I didn't mean it that way. I haven't stopped wanting you as the friend that wasn't really a best friend. I wanted to have you as the one person I could trust with everything. It's stupid and childish, but it's something I've never had again.
"We're always talking about moving on from the past and starting over again, and I know I was the one who said that first. But it's difficult because you're still Yifan, and you're still the same person that I knew then. I can't help but compare how we were then to how we are now."
Yifan didn't respond. He stared at Joonmyun, really looking through his defenses as he sat, hungover on his living room floor. Joonmyun looked up and met his eyes.
"So you want to go back to how we were before?" Yifan's eyes were soft again, but Joonmyun felt the trepidation in the air.
"And you're aware," Yifan inched forward, "that back then, we were never really just friends?" Joonmyun heard his voice shake. "If we stop this 'starting again' shit and go back to how we were, you're opening up to the possibility of there ever being an 'us' again?"
Joonmyun stared at him. Yifan was vulnerable, hopeful. Joonmyun didn't know if Yifan wanted him to say yes or if he wanted to close that chapter in their relationship for good.
But could they? Because at this moment, sitting across each other on the floor, clad in clothes that stink of alcohol, with no one watching and no audience to cater to…
"I'll take that risk."