Suho comes back after a two year absence and rekindles his first love.
Han Seojun debuts as an idol and his dreams come true.
Everyone gets their happily ever after.
Except life still goes on, things still change, and slowly, little by little, they all grow up.
Lee Suho and Han Seojun don’t get to see each other much after Seojun’s showcase debut. They’re both busy with their respective lives, Seojun now a public figure with rapidly growing popularity, and Suho with readjusting to Korea, with entrance examinations, and with Lim Jugyeong. His Jugyeongie. His first love, and destiny, and his happy ever after.
Winter turns to their first spring together, then to summer, and before he knows it they are at Namsan again for the first snowfall of the year.
He sits across from her at one of their usual café date spots as she flips through makeup catalogue after catalogue, brimming with delight.
You’re my world, my sun, you give me energy, you saved me when I was drowning within myself, thank you for not letting go during those two years.
“Suho-yah?” Jugyeong asks, noticing the intense expression he has on his face.
“Move in with me,” he says.
Jugyeong smiles, her bright eyes promising the future.
They don’t fight. Any conversation that begins to morph into a fight, they both quickly push aside. Later, they learn to steer clear of potential danger-zone topics completely.
There are little things that come up, little signs, that Suho doesn’t notice.
Or rather, he tells himself he doesn't notice them and locks them away.
Suho looks up from his phone as Seojun pulls up the seat across from him. He has the signature celebrity black bowler hat and mask on, but his array of earrings give him away.
“Hey, sorry practice ended a little later than expected today,” Seojun takes off the mask and cap, reaching over for the menu, “I am starving, this is my first meal of the day man. Let’s get enough to feed an army".
They haven’t seen each other face to face in about four months now, keeping in contact through texts and occasional phone calls. The last time they’d seen each other, Suho and Jugyeong had been very drunk with the rest of the high school gang and Seojun had shown up late. They hadn’t talked much.
Seojun looks tired, Suho thinks, like he has too much on his mind, too many things he needs to do that the twenty four hours in a day cannot cover.
Seojun looks up from the menu, a glint in his eye and a smirk on his lips, “Tonight’s on you,” he says, proceeding to call a waitress over before Suho can answer.
Their conversation starts to flows freely, the occasional back and forth jibes light, casual, and never with serious bite. Suho can feel himself slowly relaxing and letting go of tension he wasn't even ware he was holding.
"Not too much of the Pajeon, you know you shouldn't be eating too much oily foods," Suho eyes him as Seojun continues to stuff his face.
"Aish, can you just let me eat in peace, you never used to be this much of a nag," Seojun glares up at him through a mouthful of rice.
"Your loss, if you let your voice go any more than you already have I don't think you'll be able to manage any of my new songs," Suho shrugs, proceeding to move the oiliest dishes away from Seojun.
"Hey! And I'll have you know, not a single person who has heard me sing has had anything other than utmost praise for my voice, maybe you should get your ears checked or cleaned or something".
"If you're the only one singing then you don't count as your own audience".
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Singing at a noraebang alone means you have no audience, correct?"
“How did you know I used to go to noraebangs alone? I don’t think I ever told you that".
Suho thinks, and mulls over his response. He'd spoken without thinking again, something he's been doing more often now with Jugyeong around him all the time.
Suho waits for Seojun to brush the topic off and continue to eat, but he stares at Suho instead, waiting for an answer. Suho hesitates. He wonders if this is conversation territory he should be treading, aware that there are still some unresolved conversations, unresolved feelings to be dealt with.
“I got dragged into going once with Jugyeong and the rest of the study group, and I saw you two running away together from Lee Sung Yong's gang at the noraebang. Which reminds me, you still owe me thanks for taking care of that entire gang for you, so maybe dinner should be on you tonight".
“What-”, Seojun gapes, spoon halfway between his mouth and the jjigae pot, “you followed us?"
Suho shrugs, then motions to the stew that Seojun is dripping all over the table, “You clearly didn’t have the situation under control”.
“My god, Lee Suho you really are a stalker! You totally stalked Jugyeong even before you guys started dating!”
“I told you I liked her first”.
Another statement falls from his lips, unscreened by his brain. But then again, it’s been two years, and another three and a half years, and perhaps a lifetime since then.
Which is why Suho doesn’t expect the silence that he is met with. The slight tightening of hands around chopsticks, the tiny fall of the corners of Seojun’s lips, the way his gaze is fixated on Suho’s plate but Suho knows his eyes see something else entirely.
Suho waits for a beat, and then another, and then another. He’s always been the awkward one, never as smooth as Seojun or charming as Seyeon. Something inside him twists.
“Yeah,” Seojun finally laughs mirthlessly, but the spark is back in his eyes when he looks back up at Suho.
“I guess you did”.
Jugyeong's intern colleague is getting married.
She'd announced her engagement to the entire styling team last week, eyes shining and face glowing. Jugyeong had come home that evening and had talked Suho's ears off about how gorgeous and how happy she had looked, had recounted the whole story of how her fiancé had proposed to her and how they had both burst into tears and the restaurant staff had to ask if they were okay, and that their little makeup internship group now can't stop talking about wedding decorations and themes and -
"Oh, Suho," Jugyeong pats his arm frenetically, eyes shining with excitement, "let's go to that flower shop we passed by last time, you know the really cute and pretty looking one near Cafe Kitsune. I want to get Hyunji some flowers".
They go together on a sunny spring day. Jugyeong wears a yellow dress and a white cardigan. Her makeup is simple and light, in contrast to the layers after layers she used to apply in high school. Suho thinks she looks stunning, bathed in sunlight with flowers blooming everywhere. He still hasn't managed to wrap his head around how she manages to brighten up his every mood, how his breath still catches when he sees her. He thinks he could wax poetic right here, right now in the middle of the busy walkway.
"Suho? Are you okay?" Jugyeong catches his hand, head tilted to one side. Suho smiles back.
"Just thinking of song lyrics".
"Pssht, you're such a workaholic, if it's not studying it's working," Jugyeong laughs as she swings their intertwined hands back and forth.
The flower shop is filled, every nook and cranny, with full blooms of every possible type, shape and color. Suho waits patiently as the florist introduces different species and different arrangements to Jugyeong.
"We include baby's breath in almost all our wedding and engagement bouquets, they symbolize innocence, and the color and natural shape of the branches also have a balancing effect for other bolder flowers" The florist explains, pointing to various arrangements in the shop. Jugyeong is nodding furiously, and Suho smiles at her enthusiasm.
"Peonies are really popular all year round, but they're in season now so their colors are especially vibrant. They symbolize so many things, love, romance, happiness, ambition, the list really goes on, so they're a really popular wedding choice. You'll see them often on tiered wedding cakes. If your friend is more traditional, chrysanthemums are actually also really popular".
"Oh, why is that? I don't think I've ever seen them in a bouquet before," Jugyeong asks.
"They mean wealth and abundance, we've catered to a small handful of chaebol weddings where they only wanted chrysanthemums, just in a different array of colors," the florist and Jugyeong laugh.
Jugyeong's eyes wander the shop, taking every petal and every leaf in. She stops on a large display of tulips at the shopfront window, near where Suho is standing.
"What about tulips? What do they mean," Jugyeong asks, but there is a slight edge to her voice that Suho picks up on.
"Ah, tulips," the florist walks over to the display, "most people know the general meaning as 'love', but actually each color has it's own unique meaning. For example, a white tulip can symbolize forgiveness, red tulips for passion, orange for joy and happiness, yellow for friendship".
"O-oh," Jugyeong stutters for the briefest of seconds, still Suho catches on. Suddenly he wonders if this is a conversation he shouldn't be hearing, "yellow tulips for friendship? That's nice".
The florist smiles at Jugyeong, and picks up a few stalks of tulips, "that's the common meaning now. Because of it's bright color it's a nice flower to give as a gift without attaching any deeper significant meaning. But actually, in the past it was better known for symbolizing jealousy, or rejection, or more importantly one-sided love. Not many people know that now though".
Suho has seen Jugyeong's face fall before, as if she was watching the world she'd built around her slowly coming down. Once, it was when she was out with her bare face and he'd told her there were Saebom students around the corner. Once, when she thought he liked Kang Sujin instead of her. Another time, he'd seen all the color drain out of her when she'd realized the entire school had discovered her secret.
He thinks he sees the same expression on her face now.
They pay for a bouquet and leave.
Jugyeong stays quiet as they walk, eyes downcast. Suho keeps his hands in his pockets.
"Where to now?" he asks.
"What? Oh," Jugyeong startles, and looks around them, "um," she begins.
Suho knows how this will end. This has happened before. Not often, not too many times. Not that he's counting anyway because he isn't. He isn't. But it's happened before.
"I just remembered I need to go home early today, I promised my Dad I'd be back to help with something. Call you tomorrow?"
"Okay, shall I take you home?"
"No need," Jugyeong smiles up at him, and Suho sees through it like glass, "see you tomorrow".
"Okay, take care".
Suho is good at this, or rather, he is bad at dealing with issues like this, but he’s ben ranked Numero Uno his whole life he’s not going to now start admitting that he’s bad at something. Especially if it involves him and Jugyeong.
So Suho becomes an expert at sweeping things under the carpet, ignoring all signs of their changing relationship. Because it’s him and Jugyeong, first loves made to be, the person who pulled him from the depths of his despair, when he felt ready for the world to swallow him whole.
How can they possibly fall apart?
The fights come inevitably. Over small trivial things first, then over bigger things that take them longer to make up.
Suho still isn't keep track. He isn't keeping track of the number of times her face falls, of the number of times she'll suddenly seem distant, thoughts going back to a time when he wasn't around, and he definitely doesn't notice the decreasing frequency of intimacy.
He ignores the pit in his stomach rising up into his throat, rising and rising and threatening to blind him, the one he recognizes as loss, because he's so fucked up that it all feels the same to him now no matter how deep the cut, and he can't go back to carrying that weight around with him anymore.
He just can't.
Han Seojun shows up unexpectedly one night at Suho’s apartment.
Seojun hugs him briefly, “Yo, bro,” brushing past him before throwing his leather jacket over one of the bar stools while Suho stands and watches him, door open.
“Please,” Suho makes a grand sweeping gesture with his hand while closing the front door, “do come in and make yourself at home".
Seojun is already lying on the couch, newly blonde hair strewn over a cushion.
“Where’s Jugyeong?” Seojun asks absentmindedly without looking around.
“She’s in Daegu this week for a project,” Suho frowns, “you didn’t know?”
Seojun waves an arm lazily, eyes closed, “I’ve been so busy lately I don’t even know what my pretty Gowoon is up to”.
“Hm,” Suho equivocates and throws Seojun a bottle of water from the fridge, which he catches perfectly with one hand. His eyes open wide and mouth forms into an ooooh form. Suho just rolls his eyes and shakes his head.
They catch up over dinner, muck around on the VR console until Suho physically shoves Seojun away after losing the race for the fifteenth straight time (I bet you’d drive like that in real like, Suho-yah), and it’s only then that Suho realises that Seojun is stalling.
Instinctively his mind works to protect his heart. As if knowing the problem could lighten the emotional blow, because Seojun rarely comes to him about, well, anything. Why is that, anyway?
Suho races through the possibilities; band politics, feeling powerless under an entertainment conglomerate, his mother’s health, Lim Jugy-
“Should we go get some beer?” Suho asks.
Seojun shakes his head without answering, getting off the couch and moves to punch in the code for the music room.
“Nah, we’re shooting our music video next month and I can’t afford the calories right now. Show me some of your new songs instead".
They move into the music room. Seojun pauses by the piano to briefly pick up the framed photo of the three of them, showing off their friendship bracelets. He looks over at Suho and raises his wrist, as if to confirm Suho is wearing his. Suho raises his bracelet adorned wrist right back. Seojun smiles, replaces the photo, and moves to pick a guitar from the wall.
Suho moves to the piano and picks up the photo too, brushing a finger over Seyeon's face. How many years has it been now, six? Seven?
He strikes the piano keys, Seojun strums, and the room feels so familiar and yet so foreign all at once. As if the years that have passed mean nothing in this space of theirs.
They all have their tells. Jugyeong tilts her head down and doesn’t make eye contact, bites her lower lip or fiddles with the base of her top. Seyeon used to dance until his legs gave way. And Han Seojun, Han Seojun avoids and buries everything deep down. Han Seojun scowls and smirks and drinks and bikes and gets into the wrong crowd, then he sleeps through school and works and gives and gives, never once thinking to take for himself.
“I’ll be on Hee-Cheol's Sketchbook in two months time. Just me, without the guys,” Seojun begins, after they've gone over and bickered over most of Suho's new songs, chin resting in the curve of the guitar.
Suho waits to congratulate him, because this is the reason Han Seojun showed up unannounced in the middle of the night.
Of course it's about Seyeon, he thinks.
“So the interview questions are all the basic setup, but they’re also going to ask about that three year break, how I used to be a trainee and quit, then signed on again three years later".
Seojun’s voice shakes a little, and Suho thinks his own hands would be trembling at the same frequency if they were'nt balled so tightly into fists in his pockets.
“I’ll be doing an acoustic version of Starlight, another new arrangement,” Seojun says, and stops.
Suho sees a rooftop and a hooded figure in the darkness. He sees Seojun on stage, lit up by a kaleidoscope of colors through the tears in his eyes.
He wonders if Seojun sees the same things too sometimes, if he thinks about the same things. How much they had needed each other in their lives, how much their friendship had meant to each of them as an individual, how every moment spent chasing dreams meant an escape from reality.
Instead, he uncurls his fists and moves to his piano. Seojun's lips curl into a smirk, "smartass," he breathes, and starts strumming.
“I see my angelic voice never fails to bring you to tears, Lee Suho,” Seojun says after, pretending to be fascinated with the electric guitar on the wall while wiping his face.
“Please, I’m in agony at how you’ve managed to butcher mine and Seyeon’s work of art".
“What was that!?”
It gets easier with time, Suho realizes, to play their old songs, to talk about the old days, to bring up Seyeon's name. It still hurts, it still feels like reopening old wounds whenever he thinks about Seyeon, but having Seojun around helps. Suho thinks the wounds mend just a little more each and every time.
It’s a small win, and he’ll take it.
He’s always been better at taking anyway.
Seojun takes the couch for the night (No duvet? No Egyptian cotton? Yah, do you know how famous I am now?), and leaves Suho a note the following morning.
I’ve got the day off next Saturday, let’s get some flowers for Seyeon.
Suho picks up the note and smiles. Maybe some things don’t change, maybe some people don’t change, and maybe some relationships don’t change after all.
They drift and fight and fall apart some more before deciding to call it quits.
Jugyeong is lingering in the doorway, the last box of her things clutched so tightly to her chest Suho can see her fingertips turning white. She’s been crying, as her eyes are red and puffy and there are dark circles under her eyes. She’s come in her bare face today.
Suho thinks she looks radiant. She always has.
“I hope,” Jugyeong says softly, voice wavering, “that we can be friends again. I think it will take some time, but I’d really like it if we could be friends".
She looks at him with eyes gleaming, with tears waiting to fall, and Suho sees the exact same emotions he feels reflected in them; afraid, lost, like his heart is about to shatter into a million pieces and he’s not sure he’ll be able to glue it back the same way it was.
Suho understands this, knows in his mind that this is the only path for them to take now or they will tear each other into pieces eventually. But his heart still screams at him. How can he live without her radiant energy? How can they part when they still love each other? How will he ever manage a new day tomorrow without her by his side?
“Yeah, I’d like that,” he smiles bravely, and puts his hands in the back pockets of his jeans as she turns to leave.
Suho walks back to the kitchen, grabs his phone and pulls up Seojun’s contact, his thumb hovers over the call button.
So what if you liked her first? Her feelings don’t matter?
Confess? Are you insane? She’s going out with you!
Today was my last chance to do what I couldn’t two years ago.
(Lee Suho isn’t the type to break your heart.
I hear he’s taking the red-eye back tonight. You’d better hurry if you want to catch him before he goes.
He’ll never tell you this himself, but Lee Suho is Leo.)
He turns his phone off and throws it aside. Then he opens a bottle of wine.
He tells Seojun after three months have passed.
Kim Chorong is opening a boutique fitness studio, and the soft launch has a pretty impressive celebrity guest list that Han Seojun honestly has nothing to do with, which makes it even more impressive. Suho accepts the invitation because Jujitsu isn’t enough of an outlet anymore, Kim Chorong is a nice guy and Seojun’s good friend, and Suho thinks that maybe it might be time to start socialising in different circles where not everybody went to the same high school as he did, people who don’t know Jugyeong, people who don’t know him and Jugyeong.
The facilities are top notch. Suho takes the time to wander around the equipment and the studio rooms, unconsciously nodding his head. He’ll admit, he’s impressed.
Kim Chorong claps a hand on his back.
“So, what do you think?”
Suho nods, “It’s really nice, great job man”.
Kim Chorong laughs happily, and Seojun walks up behind to hand them both a drink.
“Chorong-ah, savor this. Compliments fall from Lee Suho’s lips like rain in the desert”.
Kim Chorong leaves to greet some of the late attendees. Suho scans and room, noticing a number of familiar celebrity faces. Seojun follows his gaze.
“Really impressive isn’t it, I knew he was really into fitness after high school, but to really manage to pull this off, and can you believe he’s actually friends with Mahn Bohyun?”
“I know, cheers to Kim Chorong,” they clink glasses.
“How come Jugyeong didn’t come today by the way?”
Suho doesn’t miss a beat.
“We broke up”.
Seojun chokes immediately on his drink.
“What?” he manages to gasp out once he is semi-recovered.
“Yeah like you’d ever get away with playing dumb. When did you guys break up?”
Suho considers, “awhile ago,” he equivocates.
Seojun rolls his eyes, “so it’s probably been like what, a couple of days then? Don’t worry you guys will be back together by the end of next week".
Suho considers this again, and mentally runs through as many responses as possible. He needs to retrain his brain to screen his thoughts before they fall out of his mouth. The only thing is, he can see Seojun’s attention slowly turning back to the party, and he’s losing his chance to finally lay his cards bare. Seojun’s always been the braver one, always taking the leap first consequences be damned.
Lee Suho wishes sometimes that he was more like Han Seojun.
“We broke up three month ago, I think this time it’s going to be for good. She's already moved all her stuff out".
Seojun’s head whips back to him, eyes searching. Suho avoids his gaze, looking at the party guests mingling, laughing and drinking.
“Why didn’t you tell me earlier?” Seojun asks quietly, finally looking away.
“I guess Jugyeong didn’t tell you either,” Suho avoids the question.
Seojun sighs, “I haven’t seen her at all since Selena’s contract with Move ended actually. Sometimes some of the other artists or models will use their styling company but it’s not like she’s there on a fixed schedule anymore. We text occasionally but it’s all been over pretty trivial things".
They fall into an uncomfortable silence. Suho is reminded of their dinner that night not long after he came back from the US, after he’d seen Seojun hugging Jugyeong.
Can you call her, to make sure she’s okay? I don’t think I can do that right now. Suho wants to say, it’s on the tip of his tongue, and he genuinely means it, he thinks, maybe.
Seojun speaks up first.
“Wanna get out of here?” Seojun stands up, eyes sparkling down at Suho.
Suho thinks to himself, maybe I'll get through this in one piece.
They're back in Move, back in the studio where Seojun had recorded Leo's first re-arranged version of Starlight. Seojun shows Suho the new song the band is working on, and they proceed to mess about on the equalizers and control panel for a good hour and a half.
Suho finds himself laughing and smiling along with Seojun as they talk and breathe music. He feels like that middle school teenager again, running around with Seyeon and Seojun, thinking up lyrics and melodies that would suit both their voices.
Seojun looks up at the clock on the wall, noting the time, "dinner?" he asks. Suho nods, and they head out after making sure that the original draft song is still saved, the one new good version they trialed is also saved and that all other really bad versions they came up with have been deleted and will never see the light of day.
"Or else," Seojun mutters as they leave the practice room, "the band will have killed me for losing all our work, or I will have died from embarrassment".
Suho laughs, before his breath catches in his throat.
Lim Jugyeong stares at the two of them from across the hallway. All three of them stop dead in their tracks.
"Oh," she says, and then, "hi," raising a hand awkwardly at the two of them.
"Hey," Seojun says, looking at her, then at Suho.
Suho doesn't say anything.
The silence that passes is palpably awkward.
"Long time no see, Lim Jugyeong, how have you been?" Seojun walks up to Jugyeong, hands in his pockets. Suho knows he's mentally dragging his feet though, that this must be as awkward and uncomfortable for Seojun as it is for him.
"Are you working with one of the other idols now?"
"Hm? Oh, yeah," Jugyeong glances over at Suho, who stands still. He thinks his heart might have jumped up into his head because his ears are exploding from the sound of his own heartbeat. The hallways in Move are way too quiet, his Dad must have overspent on soundproofing.
"Selena's working with C-Pink's Sejung for her solo debut album cover, I've just come to get some things ready before tomorrow morning's shoot," she looks at Suho briefly, then her eyes flit back to Seojun before she looks away, "it's been awhile, Han Seojun".
Jugyeong glances over again to Suho, while Seojun looks between the two of them.
"Jugyeong-ah, I just remembered I need to - "
"Oh, no! Seojun I really need to get back to - "
Seojun is just about to make up some excuse to go, Jugyeong sees it coming and interrupts but something finally snaps in him and Suho gets there first.
"Guys, I need to get back to revision, I'll make a move first," he takes a couple of steps forward and make eye contact with Seojun first.
"Tell Chorong I said congratulations again, and that yes, I promise I will be there for some of the classes".
Seojun eyes him warily, but nods and claps him on the shoulder.
Suho turns to Jugyeong, "Hi," he says. She smiles at him, small and soft, so different from the smiles he'd used to see coming from her. The smiles she had just for him.
"Hi," she says.
"Nice seeing you again, you look good," Suho nods, before turning around and walking back down the corridor. He doesn't turn back to look at Seojun and Jugyeong, though he can hear their voices faintly.
Suho steps out of Move to find it snowing. The first snowfall of the year. He moves past the well-lit foyer onto the marginally darker sidewalk, and glances in the direction of where Namsan tower stands.
Then he turns himself around and heads back to his apartment.
Han Seojun is suddenly everywhere Lee Suho is. He calls five minutes ahead of showing up on Suho’s doorstep, beers in one hand, fried chicken in the other and a lazy smirk on his face. He’s calling Suho over to Move Ent. to claim anything new that Leo has written and, on occasion, to show him new songs that he and the band have started to write (Suho scoffs at all of them, but a handful actually aren’t that bad). They meet for coffee or alcohol or sometimes both more often in two weeks than they have in six months, possibly a year.
Seojun has a rare day off, an entire day, and he immediately shoves Suho into his car before taking off for a drive.
They drive without a destination, alternating choosing songs for the playlist queue and enjoying the scenery. As they drive out of the city, cold and gleaming skyscrapers give way to the green of trees and the dusky hue of mountains. The sky is a gorgeous vivid blue, the scenery whizzing by their side windows, the world passing in a comforting blur.
Seojun laughs out of the blue, and Suho finds himself smiling along without reason.
“If you were more of a sentimental creative rather than an awkward hide-in-my-music-lair type of guy, with weather and a view like this you’d probably have written the next chart topper in your head by now".
“Who says I haven't? And besides, even without my lair anything I write now will be infinitely better than what you’d be able to come up with".
“Every song needs a singer with perfect hair, perfect style and the voice of an angel to become a hit. Don’t they teach you that in music school? Suho-yah, Suho, where would you be without me,” Seojun straightens his bangs in the rear view mirror as Suho shoots him an I am not amused look.
They come across a seaside campsite when they decide to stop. Given it being a weekday the site largely empty, allowing the two to set up far enough from other groups to give their conversations privacy and prevent Seojun from being recognized as much as possible (I am a top star after all).
They bust out the booze, the pork belly and seafood for the grill and a couple of store bought side dishes. Two young teenage girls eventually recognize Seojun and come over asking for an autograph and a photo, promising not to post anything online. Suho offers to take the photo. Seojun smiles and makes bunny ears with his fingers behind the two girls, and they thank him profusely before running off, giggling.
Suho feels a growing warmth inside of him. Wasn’t it just yesterday Seojun dreamed of being on stage with Seyeon? That they were just starting on their dream chasing path?
Seojun nudges him with his shoulder, a smug smirk spreading from his lips all the way up to his eyes. Suho frowns and pushes him away.
“Suho-yah, a top star is spending his off day with you, you should be more grateful!”
“They’re probably only thirteen, it’s a given that they’ll have bad taste at this age. They’ll grow out of it eventually”.
“Seriously you’re not getting any of the king prawns once they’re cooked,” Seojun scowls at him and makes cat claws with his hand.
Later, when the embers glow softly and the sun starts to set, they sit side by side facing the sea.
“I thought you’d be hanging out with Jugyeong more,” Suho begins, acutely aware of Seojun's eyes burning into the side of his face, but he keeps his gaze on the beer bottle in his hands.
“You guys became really close friends while I was away, I just thought-“ Suho pauses, not knowing how to continue. There are so many things he wants to say to Han Seojun, so many things he wants to ask.
What did you guys do that evening after I left Move? Did you talk much? Did she mention me at all? What did she say about me? Do you still like her? You definitely still like her. Are you going to ask her out now? I just thought you’d be making sure that she was okay, just like you did when I broke her heart all those years ago.
Do you think we can all still be friends, like we used to be?
Suho looks down and brings the beer bottle back up to his lips.
Seojun finally looks away. He remains silent for a very long time. Suho wonders if he should say anything, if he should finish his unfinished sentence, or if he should say something else and change the topic and the atmosphere completely. His thoughts swim in an unfamiliar and uncoordinated fashion, he wonders if he might be already drunk despite having had only one drink.
Seojun finally speaks.
“I wasn’t there for you when Seyeon died. I should have been there, but I just made things so much worse. For you,” Seojun looks back at Suho, and Suho catches his gaze this time, “for myself too”.
“And I know this is completely different, but time this, I’ll be here for you.”
They clink their beer glasses. Suho doesn’t say anything in response. He doesn’t trust himself to speak.
Time passes slowly, quickly, and on occasion Suho feels time passing slowly and quickly at the same time. The hours and days turning into months before he realizes.
It gets easier too, to not miss Jugyeong. The itch to call her, text her I miss you come back let’s try again, comes less frequently. He finds that he can walk past cafes they frequented on dates without feeling his heart fall into his stomach, he can even enter flower shops and cosmetic stores without feeling like he might tear up.
Progress, he thinks to himself on a grey and rainy day.
Except he's had a bad day, several perhaps, that have just piled one atop another and he's too tired to think about the reason anymore. He can feel his insides squirm, his heart strangling itself inside his chest, his thoughts taking two steps, three steps, light years back from all the progress he’d been making.
He calls Seojun over without thinking, and soon they're have pizza while talking about music and bikes and everything and anything.
"What was it like when you first went back?" Suho asks, because he's always had a knack for shockingly out-of-the-blue-and-forward statements.
"What was where?" Seojun asks, lifting a brow and clearly not following Suho's train of thought.
"When you first went back to Move. What did it feel like, your first day back?"
Seojun looks at Suho for a beat, then puts his pizza down and moves to clean his hands. They sit knee-to-knee on the couch, facing the black screened television.
Seojun says he nearly threw up twice. He couldn’t focus and the band thought he had food poisoning or exhaustion or both and nearly called for an ambulance. He'd pulled himself together that day, but everyday felt exactly the same and he'd have to fight against all his thoughts and his emotions to concentrate on the music. It was exhausting. It felt impossible.
Suho knows exactly what that feels like.
"Eventually, I managed to push through. I don't know how, but one day the practice room just felt like a practice room, you know? And now it's just our band's practice room. Move has other memories for me now, both good and bad".
"For years, I couldn't even bring myself to enter the music room. I'd sit on the couch and just stare at the door, but I couldn't move".
Seojun shifts on the couch, away from Suho to lie on his back.
“Is it music? Is that your outlet?” Suho asks, something he’d been meaning to ask since middle school, when he’d first met Seojun and learned about his family.
“I guess so,” Seojun sighs.
Then I’m glad you had music after I left, and after I came back, Suho thinks.
"You've always been the braver one,” Suho says.
"No," Seojun's reply is quick. Suho looks over at him, but Seojun keeps his eyes trained on the ceiling, "I've only ever been good at running away and distracting myself. Then one day, I just got tired. It just happened, suddenly. So I signed with Move. I decided to confess. I told myself that whatever I had been through in the past didn’t matter, because everything would start from today. Today, I’d take a step forward and never look back again. That was what I told myself".
They fall into a quiet, comfortable silence after that.
“Easier said than done,” Suho says first. He can feel a small smile spreading on his lips, though he isn’t sure what it is exactly that he might be happy about. Or what it is that he might be sad about.
He looks over at Seojun, who’s already looking right at him. Seojun has the exact same smile on his face.
Seojun laughs and shakes his head.
“Yeah, easier said than done".
It took him a while to find out that Jugyeong and Seojun weren’t seeing each other as often as before.
Seojun never asked about her, though occasionally her name would come up in passing whenever the conversation drifted towards showcases or fittings, anything that makeup would be related to. Suho thought they saw each other regularly at Move, and never really thought much more about it. It was hard to enough to catch Seojun as it was.
It was only after Jugyeong asked about Seojun one evening, perched over his kitchen counter and watching his back as he tended to the stove, that he put two and two together.
"Hey Suho, have you seen Han Seojun recently? How's he doing?"
"I haven't met him in awhile, his showcase rehearsal schedule is insane, but he seems to be doing alright".
"Hm," Jugyeong says, and there is something in her voice that makes Suho turn around to face her.
"You would know better than me about his schedule though, don't you guys see each other regularly at work?"
Jugyeong avoids his eyes, fiddling with the place mat on the countertop, "we're not the makeup crew for his band anymore, Selena's been assigned to a different artist for awhile now, so," there's a hesitancy in her voice that starts a ball of anxiety in his chest. A million thoughts barrel through his head as the uneasiness swells and swirls in his chest, making him think twice about opening that door to the past, one of his many Pandora's boxes.
He turns back to the stove, "right," he says. And that is the end of that.
Suho wonders when and how Seojun learned how to give without thinking about when and how to take. He knows better than most just how much Seojun has had taken away from him. Suho wonders where the reason lies.
Stripped down to the core, they aren't so different, him and Han Seojun.
He wonders when, if ever, he'll learn to give until there's nothing left of him.
It's a dull, grey, rainy day when the urge to call Jugyeong to ask to get back together becomes too intense to bear. Suho pulls on a jacket and cap and heads for the newest mega-bookstore that opened recently downtown. It's huge and hip, with several cafes to choose from, spanning several floors with gigantic floor to ceiling windows. Suho makes a beeline for the manhwa section. It's impressive, to say the least. While the manhwa shop had been cosy and comforting, the horror manhwa selection had been minimal though he had liked everything available. Now, he has five full rows of shelves to peruse.
Good choice, Suho thinks to himself, and spends a good two hours reading.
And of all the bookstores in all the towns in all the world, on the very same day at the very same time, Lim Jugyeong walks into his and reaches for the same volume as he does.
"Excuse me-" Suho begins, then stops. This must be the universe's cosmic joke on him, the biggest prank of the century, because how can it be Lim Jugyeong he's looking at right now? Like they're the leading man and woman in a TV drama and Must. End. Up. Together. Plot be damned.
"Hi," he says. Jugyeong retracts her hand from the book, looks down and away, before looking at him and bringing her hand up to wave, "oh, hi."
Suho smiles. She's still so awkward, and it's still so endearing.
"Shall we get coffee?"
Over two steaming mugs of coffee, they talk. About manhwa, about the new series Suho found here at the bookstore that Jugyeong had already started reading. It feels light, it feels comfortable, it feels like highschool again, when they were friends and before they started dating, before they fell in love.
"They have some of the volumes out, but not all, at the manhwa shop, so I figured they'd probably have all the latest volumes over here," Jugyeong says, fingering her mug lightly and eyeing the rain still falling outside.
"I cam here because I missed you, but I thought you might be at the manhwa shop and that it probably wouldn't be a good idea to meet," Suho says, looking at Jugyeong.
Jugyeong turns to face him, surprise in her eyes, then smiles.
"I missed you too today. And I also avoided the manhwa shop," her smile falters slightly, and she looks down at her coffee, "Mr. Prince asked Gowoon about us recently, he said he hadn't seen us at the shop in awhile and wondered if we were too stressed with work. She told him we broke up, and he nearly burst into tears".
Suho looks out at the rain. Ever since Jugyeong had entered his high-school world, everything he had given up on had slowly come back to life. He turns to face her, and wants to reach across the table to hold her hand.
Instead, he keeps them off the table, firmly clenched in his lap.
“It was good seeing you again,” Jugyeong says, eyes bright. Suho smiles back, "yeah, you too".
Thank you, my first love. Goodbye.
There's a flyer on the notice board at his former music college that catches his eye. He’s there to catch up with a former supervisor who has become a close friend, when he notices it out of the corner of his eye and backtracks to take a closer look.
Berklee College of Music, Graduate School. Music Composition and Production.
He looks at it for a second, then walks off. It plants a seed in his head, and he looks up the course that night.
Suho sits on it for two days. Then he looks up reviews, looks up the works of former graduates, and sleeps on it for a week.
Suho thinks and thinks and thinks.
He speaks to his former classmates, and calls up old supervisors. He even speaks to his dad about it, who is adamant “of course you should do it son! It sounds great!” which is nice and all, but his dad is making up for a lifetime of disappointment and it isn’t exactly the critical advice Suho needs right now.
Suho calls Seojun last, knowing that his is the only opinion that matters. Not that he will ever tell him, of course.
“It sounds really good man,” Seojun says after listening to Suho expound upon detail after detail about the course.
"Do you think you'll come back, after?" he asks.
Suho thinks about it. He thinks that unless there is a definitive, magnetic pull-factor to keep him in the US, he'd always had everything back here in Korea.
"Maybe," he says, and hears Seojun laugh into his phone on the other end of the line. It makes Suho smile too.
"Jerk," Seojun says, and pauses before continuing.
"Do you think it's what you want to do?"
Suho doesn't need to think this time.
"Yeah, it is".
Han Seojun doesn't hesitate either in giving his reply.
"Then I think you should go. I think you should do it".
Two months before he leaves, he meets Jugyeong to tell her he’s leaving.
They go to a newly opened cafe in Gangnam, the type with gigantic windows and with a view of the river. It’s an airy, bright space, holding no previous memories of fluffy dates.
“Thanks for calling me out,” Jugyeong says, her hair slightly shorter than before and now in a darker shade of brown, “it’s really nice to see you again”.
Suho mirrors her light smile and relaxed posture.
“It’s really nice to see you too,” he says.
“So,” she begins, and smiles wider.
“So,” Suho says, “I’m going to be a student again in two months time. I enrolled in a Music Production course”.
“Wow, that sounds amazing! It’s what you’ve always wanted to do right?”
Suho nods, “yeah,” and smiles, remembering phone call with Seojun, “it is what I’ve always wanted to do”.
“That’s great, Suho-yah,” Jugyeong continues to smile at him, the corners of her eyes crinkling.
Suho feels like he's living his life again, except this time he's doing everything the right way around, no corners cut, no loose-ends left untied. There's no pit in his stomach, no gnarling thoughts at the back of his head, no ambulance and blood and a dark sky when he closes his eyes. When did it stop hurting?
“It’s a really famous music school in the US,” he says, and sees the understanding dawn on her face.
From there, they catch up, at times reminiscing on past memories, at times filling each other in on new developments in their lives.
“My dad still asks about you, I think he might have taken the breakup harder than either of us,” Jugyeong says, laughter in her voice. Suho laughs too, remembering the time her Dad had stayed over at his apartment, the first time he had felt what it would have felt like to be a son to a loving and ever-present father.
“When you have time, come round to have mandu again”.
“To have, or to make mandu?”
“To have, we'll make Seojun do all the work”.
They laugh again, and Jugyeong looks down at her hands.
"Can I come? To the airport to see you off?"
Suho is surprised, but immediately understands. Like him, she must have loose ends to tie, feelings to resolve.
"Of course, I'd like that," and then, "Seojun will be coming too,” because he’s unsure still about where they stand with each other.
Jugyeong shrugs, turning her hands up to face the ceiling.
"I figured, I hope he doesn't bring the paparazzi or his fanclub or worse, both with him”.
Suho pretends to mull it over.
"Yeah, you're right, he's not coming," Suho shakes his head and folds his arms in front of his chest, which Jugyeong laughs at.
"No, he should come! It will be like the old days," she catches herself, "or, sort of, I guess," she finishes sheepishly.
Suho just smiles, and Jugyeong smiles back.
Just like the old days, he thinks, sort of.
The ride to the airport is breezy and comfortable, and it feels like years ago and they are eighteen again and just hanging out. They talk about the latest hoodie and denim trend ( called it way back in high school, Seojun boasts), the newest cafes and bars to open in Itaewon (that place is so overrated), Seojun’s drama cameo, Jugyeong’s Silver Button award, the number of hit songs Leo now has under his belt.
Suho laughs, Jugyeong turns to the back to look at Seojun, who’s playing air guitar and singing his latest power ballad.
All too soon, he is past check-in and approaching security. Suho thinks he’s seen this movie before, that he’s heard this song before. It’s a rewind for all of them except that there are three different versions of the same story.
Suho turns around to say goodbye. He hugs Jugyeong first, then Seojun. This time, Seojun stands a few steps in front of Jugyeong, mask and beanie hiding his identity sufficiently, but his eyes shine bright behind the cover-up.
“You’d better pick up my calls this time, asshole,” Seojun says, and steps forward to give him another hug. Suho smiles wide and pats Seojun’s back.
“You’re scheduled to tour in the US next year, so I’ll be seeing you soon".
“Don’t go writing too many hit songs for other artists now, before you come back".
“So you’re finally admitting that you’re only a chart topper because of my music?"
"Aish, you're so annoying. Hurry on in".
Suho smiles as Seojun falls back in line with Jugyeong. He’d broken Jugyeong's heart back then. He’d broken Seojun’s heart back then as well. Back then, he'd felt like he was leaving a dream for a black hole. Now, Suho feels the small tremble of excitement for the next phase of his life in the tips of his fingers. He looks at Jugyeong, then at Seojun, and thinks that he'd like it if the two of them became close again. If they start dating, well, Suho thinks he'd probably like that too.
“Get home without being recognized, both of you!” He gives them a last wave before turning around.
For the first time since Seyeon, since his mother, in my life Suho thinks, he feels lighter than air.
Seojun plays three shows in the US; one in LA, one in Seattle, and the last leg of his US tour in New York. Lim Heegyeong sends Suho a backstage pass to all three shows a month before Seojun is due to arrive.
The signed package comes with a short note typical of Heegyeong’s character. Suho finds himself smiling from ear to ear. Whichever one you can catch, but something tells me Leo will be at all three anyway.
When Seojun arrives, they catch each other whenever they can amidst rehearsals and lectures and fittings and project deadlines.
Suho does in fact go to all three shows.
The LA show starts and ends with a bang. Seojun cruises arond the stage, voice like honey and stage movements swift with practice. At the Seattle show they play a similar setlist, with a couple of song changes and one new cover as an encore song.
The crowd at the NYC show is unbelievable. If not for some of the shouts and cries in English, Suho would have thought that they were playing back in Korea. The band plays four encore songs, one more than the usual planned three set-list, but the entire stadium is still up on their feet, a sea of neon lights shining and a steady chorus of one more one more, encore encore.
Suho can see the band with the staff and crew backstage deep in discussion. There is a lot of nodding and gesturing before they break. He glimpses Seojun run off to the side to change and guesses they must have decided to do one final song.
Chanhi, Jae-Won and Hyun Sik re-emerge on stage first. Suho didn’t think the crowd could have been any louder, and the cheers that erupt when the music starts have him smiling in awe.
“Hey,” a voice says behind him, and Suho turns.
Seojun stands before him, perfectly gelled hair, dark eyeliner and sparkling eye shadow, and Suho sees the kid who would strum his guitar and harmonize while Seyeon sang the melody and he played the piano.
“Amazing show,” Suho says before he can stop himself, and waits for the usual Narcissus response in return. He’s already ready to laugh and shake his head.
But Seojun laughs instead, his eyes disappearing into little half moons and his cheeks widening. He gives Suho a hug before heading back onto the darkened stage, “thanks for coming to all three shows man”.
The lights come back on. The cheers jump to inhuman decibel levels. And the music shifts, changes from the generic instrumental that played while waiting for Seojun to re-emerge, to a melody he knows by heart, etched into the back of his mind and his eyes.
The sky dyed purple
Lonely wind and a colder night
Han Seojun is lit in a kaleidoscope of colours again. He is much too bright, much too dazzling, so much so that Suho finds himself closing his eyes.
Seyeon appears. Seojun does too, and they’re fifteen again at the street market, smiling and laughing and buying friendship bracelets they swear they’ll never take off for the rest of their life.
Tears are falling from his eyes before Suho realises it, one and then another and then another. Suho doesn’t have to see Seojun to know that he must be tearing up too.
Seojun will probably be in full blown tears at the end of the song, when he takes everything in, thanking the crowd and waving one last time before disappearing backstage where the lights are down.
Suho will laugh at him, tear tracks wiped cleanly off his cheeks, and call him a sap while patting his back. Seojun will grumble and push him away but insist he come along after to celebrate a successful world tour with the band and the rest of the staff.
And slowly, just like this, they grow up.