lirazel: ([kpop] succeed)
[personal profile] lirazel
Oh good Lord what is my life.

Fic: we have not touched the stars
Fandom: Reply 1997/Shut Up Flower Boy Band
Characters/Pairings: Joonhee/Hyunsoo
Rating: PG-13
Summary: There's a new boy in Joonhee's class, a boy like a live wire.


--

i.

There’s a new boy in Joonhee’s class: he comes slouching in with his shirt untucked and the shadow of a bruise across his cheekbone, and every line of him is a dare for anyone to approach him. He makes Joonhee’s hand twitch with nervousness; they have their troublemakers here in school, of course, but there’s an edge to this boy that says ‘city’ more clearly than his accent ever could, and the sprawl of his long legs is a lesson in defiance. The teacher eyes him carefully, trying to determine whether it’s the worth the battle, eventually settles on benign neglect. The boy sleeps through class, and his face doesn’t soften even in sleep.

In the hallways the girls gasp at the new boy’s face and Joonhee can’t really blame them because it’s the most perfect face he’s ever seen, too, but he wants to warn them, to tell them it’s no use in sighing over this one, that they have as much shot with the idols they cry over as they do with this boy. He may technically be right here, but the gloss of magazine pictures under their fingers is more real than any piece of this boy they’d ever get. He’s like a live wire, this boy.

His face is hard and his eyes are harder and Joonhee is so busy not looking at him that he doesn’t even see the desperation under a brittle layer of protective steel.


ii.

There’s a bully in their school, a wannabe jjang whose fists are quicker than his mind, as these things usually go. He zeros in on the new boy immediately, dramatic looming over him (the new boy is sitting; if he stood he’d have a few inches on Yuchul at least) and threats he probably thinks are subtle but are anything but. The new boy rolls his eyes, but there’s a twitch of his mouth that makes Joonhee think that this new boy could be jjang in five minutes if he really tried. Yuchul must not be as thick as Joonhee thought, because when he doesn’t get a response from the new boy, he barks out a few more threats and hurries off with his lackeys.

Joonhee has gone back to looking at Yoonjae and so he doesn’t see the flash of terrifying hunger that lightnings through the new boy’s eyes at the sight of the pack of boys headed away from him.


iii.

The new boy’s name is Hyunsoo and he’s from Seoul, of course. Joonhee’s homeroom teacher asks him to show Hyunsoo around, but once they’re out in the hallway, Hyunsoo jabs a finger to the right, “Bathroom,” and then the left, “Cafeteria,” then in the direction of the stairs, “Roof,” and pulls his headphones over his ears as he walks away. Joonhee isn’t surprised. He goes to find Shiwon.


iv.

“You’re in love with him?”

The question, drawled in a Seoul-edged accent, turns the blood in Joonhee’s veins to ice, and for a second he thinks: this is it. This is the end.

The words have never been spoken aloud, not even to himself. It had been transgressive enough to type them to Shiwon, but he had been certain they’d remain unspoken forever. But now they’re there, real, substantial as if they’d been carved in stone and set up as a monument for the whole world to see, and Joonhee is certain that this is the end for him.

But no one else but him had heard the question over the lunchtime chaos of everyone streaming out into the hallways, his secret, as always, hidden in plain view, invisible because no one thinks to look.

When he remembers how to breathe again, Joonhee tears his eyes away from Yoonjae’s retreating back and looks at Hyunsoo, his bright red headphones around his neck, his face almost amused—the closest thing to an emotion Joonhee has seen there.

Joonhee is practiced at keeping his face blank, at not giving away what he’s feeling, but there must be some sort of confirmation in his eyes or in the stiffness of his shoulders, because Hyunsoo shrugs. “You’re not as careful as you think you are.”

The thing to do would be to fall to his knees and beg that this boy never reveal his secret. By knowing this—by even guessing it—this boy holds Joonhee’s entire life in his hands, and he could crush it as casually as he stomps out cigarette butts behind the gym. But Joonhee’s tongue is frozen to the roof of his mouth, and in the moment it takes him to pry it loose, he sees something in the dismissive wave of Hyunsoo’s hand that makes him think that Hyunsoo isn’t interested at all in the power his knowledge has given him.

“I’d give up,” Hyunsoo says, and Joonhee is confident this is the longest conversation he’s had with anyone since moving to Busan. “You don’t have a chance.” Hyunsoo jerks his chin towards where Yoonjae and Shiwon are slapping and sniping at each other. The sight, so familiar, rings hollow through Joonhee’s chest.

Hyunsoo saunters away, and Joonhee teaches himself how to breathe again.


v.

Nine at night on a Tuesday, and Joonhee is dancing in the empty gym, no music and the only illumination the stream of the outside lights through the windows, leaving streaks across the wooden floor. Nobody but Shiwon knows he practices here; there isn’t enough room at home, even with two of his older sisters married and moved out. Sometimes his twin Eunji comes with him and sits with her back against the wall doing her homework as he moves through the motions, beat pulsing in his head, but tonight he’s alone and the heat, the motion, the sweat feel like an escape.

He doesn’t hear the door open, and he’ll never know how much time passes before he realizes that there’s a figure leaning against the wall by the door to the locker room.

It’s not so much a sudden realization as it is a slow creeping of awareness, and Joonhee finishes the dance before he turns to face the intruder.

He doesn’t hide his dancing, even if he doesn’t make a big deal about it either; he has nothing to justify or explain, so he waits for Hyunsoo to speak first, his shirt plastered to his back and the pleasant burn of tired muscles his reward for hard work.

“You aren’t bad,” Hyunsoo says finally, and Joonhee thinks that’s probably the biggest compliment Hyunsoo is willing to offer anyone. He watches, still quiet except for his heavy breathing, as Hyunsoo pushes off the wall and meanders over to sit on the bleachers not far from where Joonhee is practicing. Joonhee thinks he should feel self-conscious with Hyunsoo’s too-intense eyes on him, but somehow he doesn’t. Hyunsoo has known his secret for over a month now, and Joonhee is sure that he’ll never say anything about it to anyone else. Maybe it’s the shared secret that makes him feel comfortable.

Hyunsoo looks like a bad boy, but he hasn’t gotten in any trouble since he got here, probably because the teachers haven’t tried to make him tuck in his shirts or stop listening to his music during class and he ignores everyone else. He shrugs off girls’ eager words as easily as he does their hands, acts like the boys aren’t even there, and moves through the school as though he has a layer of no-man’s land wrapped around him. But Joonhee is a dancer, and he knows body language, and something tells him that Hyunsoo isn’t used to walking alone.

Anyway, there’s no reason to not be friendly, so Joonhee makes an effort. “What are you always listening to?” he asks, eyeing the ever-present red headphones. “Anything worth dancing to?”

There’s a rectangle of light falling right across Hyunsoo’s face, and so Joonhee sees something sharp and wounded pass through Hyunsoo’s eyes at the question. “No,” Hyunsoo answers, voice throaty. “It’s not for dancing.”

“Rock music, then?” Hyunsoo looks like the type to listen to rock.

“Yeah.” Something wary is rising in Hyunsoo’s eyes and voice, but Joonhee doesn’t mind. He walks over to where Hyunsoo is sitting, rubbing the sweat off the back of his neck as he goes.

“Can I hear?”

Hyunsoo almost looks startled, eyes Joonhee for a moment as Joonhee sits down on the bleacher step below him. After a moment he gives a shrug, looking away as he hands over the headphones. Joonhee puts them on and pushes play on the CD player.

“It’s good,” he says after the song is over. It is. It isn’t really Joonhee’s kind of music or anything like the pop he listens to with Shiwon, but there’s something real about it that seems suited to Hyunsoo’s guarded eyes and the half-dark of an empty gym.

Hyunsoo turns to look at him, his Adam’s apple bobbing and his eyes darker than usual. “It’s us.” He clears his throat. “Eye Candy.”

“You’re in a band?” It’s not surprising. It seems right.

“Was.” There’s silence for a moment, and Joonhee waits. He’s used to silence. “Me and my friends. In Seoul.”

Joonhee tries to imagine Hyunsoo’s friends. Talented, at least. He hadn’t been lying about the music being good. “What did you play?”

“Guitar.”

Joonhee’s eyes shoot down to Hyunsoo’s hands, and it’s too dark to see them, but he thinks probably he’d find calluses on Hyunsoo’s fingertips. It seems right, the mental image of Hyunsoo holding a guitar, his tongue darting out to lick his lips, eyes heavy with the intensity he seems to carry around with him, but this time all poured into the music instead of fizzing around him with no outlet. Joonhee thinks he’d like to see that.

Joonhee hands the headphones back and stands to gather his things. “I’ve got homework to do,” he says, throwing his uniform jacket over his arm. In school, his uniform is always immaculate; he wonders if he looks as different as he feels right now, t-shirt plastered to his body and hair a mess.

“Looking to move up to first place?” Hyunsoo asks, clearly aiming at lazy, but still tense with the emotions talking about his music had stirred up.

“I’ll never be first place,” Joonhee says, swinging his backpack on. “Goodnight, Hyunsoo,” he says, walking to the door. He’s pretty sure Hyunsoo didn’t mean for him to hear his muttered, “Me, neither,” so Joonhee doesn’t say anything, stepping out into the warm night and letting the door bang shut behind him.


vi.

The teacher is going over polynomials, and it’s a refresher, so Joonhee allows himself a moment to look up from his meticulous notes. Habit turns his head towards Yoonjae, who’s doodling something in the corner of his notebook and looking bored. Yoonjae’s never had to try to keep first place. Joonhee has only ever felt awe at that, never jealousy. Jealousy has always seemed supremely pointless to Joonhee, and he already carries around one pointless burden. It would be no use holding onto another.

This would be the time when he goes back to his notes, but for some reason he looks over his shoulder. Hyunsoo sits in his seat in the far back corner of the room, (almost) as far from Joonhee as it’s possible to be (almost, because there’s Yoonjae). His headphones are on and his eyes are closed and his face is set as hard as ever, but when his eyes flicker open and meet Joonhee’s, Joonhee catches a glimpse of a hurricane of emotions before the hard shell settles back into place. Emotions he recognizes from that night last week when Hyunsoo had talked about his band.

Joonhee turns back to his notes, but instead of writing down what the teacher is lecturing about, he makes a small list in his neat handwriting at the bottom of the page.

1. Longing
2. Grief
3. Desperation
4. Resentment
5. ?


vii.

“Do you want to go back to Seoul once you graduate?” Joonhee asks, moping the sweat of dance practice off his face with a towel and walking over to where Hyunsoo is sitting in the gym doorway, back against the jamb on one side, foot braced almost shoulder-height against the jamb on the other, long leg making a ninety-degree angle. Hyunsoo takes the last puff of his cigarette and tosses it out the door as Hyunsoo sits down beside him in the fall of light through the doorway.

“What’s there to go back for?” Hyunsoo answers in that tone that Joonhee now recognizes is Hyunsoo trying too hard to be careless. Hyunsoo is easier to read than Joonhee would have thought, especially now that they’re getting to know each other. Hyunsoo stops in when Joonhee is dancing a couple of times a week and sometimes he even talks. That’s how Joonhee had found out that Hyunsoo’s family had moved to Busan because it was cheaper, because his little sister is sick and the hospital bills are so expensive. Hyunsoo’s voice doesn’t soften when he talks about his sister, voice as gruff as ever, but his eyes do, and Joonhee can see how much Hyunsoo loves her.

Hyunsoo, Joonhee has figured out, isn’t a hard person at all. He just really, really wants to be.

“Your friends.” Joonhee leans his back against the cool wall beside the door, turns his head so he can keep a bit of Hyunsoo in his line of sight. “The band.”

Hyunsoo snorts. “They’ll have forgotten all about me.” He jerks at a weed growing just outside, ripping it out of the ground. “I’m forgettable.”

That’s one of the most ridiculous things Joonhee has ever heard, but he figures Hyunsoo must have some reason to feel like that, so he doesn’t argue. “You think they’ll have replaced you in the band?”

“They didn’t need to. You don’t need two guitarists, and Jihyuk was always better than me anyway.”

Joonhee considers this for a moment. “Do you still play?”

Another snort. “No.”

“Why not?”

The way Hyunsoo gnaws on his bottom lip creases his face up till you could forget that it’s beautiful. Joonhee forgets it a lot, actually. It’s the least interesting thing about Hyunsoo.

“I only learned so I could be with them,” he says, and the way he says it sounds like it’s the first time he’s said it out loud.

“Do you miss it?”

“You can be really annoying sometimes, you know that?”

“It seems like music runs in your family. I bet you were good.”

Hyunsoo looks surprised, like he can’t figure out how he should feel about Joonhee’s words. A couple of nights before, when he’d mentioned that his parents sing in a cabaret, Joonhee had seen that even though he tried to make the comment casual, Hyunsoo’s shoulders were set like he expected ridicule. The thought hadn’t occurred to Joonhee; it’s clear from their move to help their daughter that Hyunsoo’s parents love their kids. Sure, cabarets are kind of shady sometimes, but the singers are just there to sing. Joonhee wonders if Hyunsoo can sing, thinks he might really like Hyunsoo’s voice if it was singing, but he doesn’t ask.

“An electric guitar isn’t worth much by itself,” Hyunsoo says finally. “It’s meant for a band.”

“Do you play acoustic, too?”

Hyunsoo doesn’t answer, and after a while, Joonhee gets up and goes back to dancing.


viii.

Joonhee carries his tray over to the steps where his friends are sitting. Sungjae has a dirty magazine and he and Hakchan are snickering over it. Yoojung and Shiwon are fawning over some torn-out article while Shiwon kicks her leg out at Yoonjae and Yoonjae whines. Joonhee stands there, tray in hand, and looks down at them. He loves them, so much, but sometimes they are just too much for him and he feels very far away from them.

“Aren’t you going to sit down?” Yoonjae demands, reaching over to yank at Shiwon’s hair.

Joonhee looks over his shoulder. Hyunsoo is sitting alone in the shade of a tree, back against the trunk, headphones on as he picks at his rice. Joonhee looks back at Yoonjae. “Not today.”

Yoonjae is probably staring after him, confused, but Joonhee doesn’t look back as he walks towards Hyunsoo and sits down beside him, spreading out his lunch and pulling out his chopsticks.

“You should go back and sit with your friends,” Hyunsoo says after a moment, not even bothering to pull his headphones off his ears. Joonhee nods and continues to eat. He can hear the faintest bit of Hyunsoo’s music playing, the now-familiar sound of “I’m Not in Love.”


ix.

Joonhee’s stopped at the drug store to pick up some things for his sisters when he hears a familiar voice. Hyunsoo is down at the other end of the aisle, a little girl with long pigtails hanging from his arm. Joonhee recognizes the familiar note of pleading in the little girl’s voice, the same tone his sisters use on his dad. Hyunsoo has his face all contorted up like he’s fighting a losing battle to keep stony-faced and unimpressed when he really wants to smile.

“Oppa! Oppa!” The little girl holds her arms up in the air and Hyunsoo sighs and hoists her into his arms, smile slipping lose for just a moment when her little arms wind round his neck. “Please, oppa?”

“Dasommie, no. You’ll ruin your dinner.”

Joonhee grins to himself as he heads out the door; he doesn’t need to stay to confirm that Hyunsoo’s little sister will get whatever piece of candy she was begging for.


x.

Joonhee couldn’t give you a good reason why he’s standing at the bus stop at nearly midnight, waiting for the last bus from Seoul to arrive, but he’s stopped needing reasons for things long ago.

A spasm of surprise crosses Hyunsoo’s face when he stomps off of the bus—he certainly hadn’t asked Joonhee to come, hadn’t even told him which bus he’d be on. But the astonishment is crushed out by that stoniness Joonhee recognizes from Hyunsoo’s first weeks in Busan, and he isn’t surprised when Hyunsoo doesn’t say anything to him, just shoves his hands in his pockets and storms away.

Joonhee falls into pace beside him, and he wants to reach out and touch Hyunsoo’s hunched shoulder the way he would Shiwon’s when she’s feeling heartbroken over whatever’s broken her heart this week. But Hyunsoo wouldn’t take it so well, Joonhee thinks, so he keeps his hands to himself, and walks beside Hyunsoo in silence.

Hyunsoo’s breathing and his speed pick up as they go, and his legs are longer than Joonhee’s, so in the effort to keep up, it takes Joonhee a moment to realize that Hyunsoo is cursing, over and over under his breath.

“Fuck!” Hyunsoo shouts suddenly, then lets out a growling sound, jerking his hands over his hair in frustration. “Fuck them!”

“They forgot about you?” Joonhee doesn’t think that’s true for even a second, but he knows something must have happened when Hyunsoo met up with his friends, something that cracked the heart Hyunsoo keeps trying to turn to stone. This is the reason why Joonhee had come.

“Fuck you, of course not.”

Joonhee isn’t the least bit unnerved by Hyunsoo’s anger. He knows it’s not directed at him. Hyunsoo’s never been angry at him.

“They fucking missed me. They were so glad to see me! They wanted to tell me everything and—“ The thickness of Hyunsoo’s desperate anger chokes him and he has to start over. “But they’re fucking fine without me. They’re still playing and—“

And Joonhee understands. Nothing hurts more than knowing the people you can’t survive without don’t need you nearly as much as you need them. Hyunsoo’s friends’ lives have carried on just like before, only now without him in them.

Joonhee could tell him that that’s what life is like: some part of you is cut out and you think it was indispensable and you’ll never stop feeling the pain, but the wound scars over and you find other ways to carry on. He could tell him that, but it wouldn’t help, so he doesn’t.

“Fuck!” It’s less a shout this time than a scream, and Hyunsoo’s fist flies out and there’s a painful crunch, and Joonhee’s moving before he even thinks about it, Hyunsoo’s hand cradled in his own, the bleeding knuckles from the brick wall and the fading calluses of Hyunsoo’s fingertips making him feel like he wants to cry.

“Hyunsoo, don’t—“

Hyunsoo’s hand jerks out of Joonhee’s and Joonhee barely has time to register it before Hyunsoo’s lips are on his, angry and desperate, and Joonhee’s never kissed anyone before, has barely even fantasized about anyone but Yoonjae, and the smell of Hyunsoo is just everywhere and his mouth

Hyunsoo wrenches himself back almost as quickly as he’d launched himself forward and Joonhee’s lips feel tender and swollen and Hyunsoo’s face is a blur of anguished guilt.

“Fuck—I’m sorry—I—fuck—“

And then Hyunsoo is gone, leaving only the sound of his pounding footsteps and the throbbing of Joonhee’s lips behind him.


xi.

Hyunsoo avoids his eyes.

Hyunsoo doesn’t come to the gym at night.

For the first time since he met Yoonjae, Joonhee makes it through a whole week without thinking about him when he’s not right in front of him.


xii.

Three weeks later, and Hyunsoo is kissing him again, pushing him up against a wall in the stairwell of the hospital. This isn’t why Joonhee had come, but he can taste the salt of tears on his lips as Hyunsoo pushes closer to him, fingers and tongue insistent, and there’s a little girl in a bed too big for her down the hall, silent and pale and hooked up to far too many machines and sometimes Joonhee is convinced that Shiwon is closer to Tony-oppa than Joonhee is to Yoonjae. Joonhee holds onto Hyunsoo’s hips firmly and kisses him back.


xiii.

“It sucks,” Hyunsoo says brusquely, shoving his phone back into his pocket after he finishes his call to Jihyuk sharing the news that Dasom is going to be all right. “When you know exactly what you want but you know you’re never going to get it.”

Joonhee leans back against the wall of the hospital and thinks of Yoonjae’s face and the taste of Hyunsoo’s mouth. The side of his hand brushes against the side of Hyunsoo’s, and Hyunsoo doesn’t move his hand away. “It’s a lot harder to figure out what you want second most,” he agrees.


xiv.

Hyunsoo, Joonhee thinks, is what would happen if someone took every emotion it’s possible to feel, pushed them to their limit, then packed them into a tiny ball and tried to cover them with a hard shell of nothing. Hyunsoo wants and feels so much but doesn’t want to want or feel anything, and he keeps trying to turn himself to stone but he can’t do it and sometimes the things he wants and feels strike out against the shell so hard that it cracks and they come howling out.

Joonhee should probably be scared of the force of the things Hyunsoo wants and feels, but the one thing he’s never been around Hyunsoo is scared.


xv.

They both know what they want, what they’ve always wanted, and they’ve both known for a long time that they can’t have it.

Maybe life is setting aside all the things you can’t have and then figuring out what you want out of all the things you can.


xvi.

(Sometimes the things you didn’t know you wanted turn out to deserve better than second place.

Or maybe there’s no such thing as second place at all.)
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