He is practically dragging his feet from the shower right at this moment. It has been a long day - they spent hours practising the new choreography for the comeback and preparing the setlist for the new tour.
Despite the fatigue, he is still excited for tomorrow that will come as it means he has something he can look forward to. Putting on his white shirt with pyjama pants, he lays on top of the soft mattress. He reaches out for his phone but as he do so he accidentally knocks down several other things on the nightstand.
'I'll pick it up later.'
His body is tired but somehow he can't fall asleep immediately. He closes his eyes and recalls things that happened in these past few years. He remembers there are lot of memories that involves smiles, laughters, cheers, excitement, tears, injuries, fightings.
All those memories somehow never fail to constantly include another person besides himself.
He remembers the feelings he always keep to himself back then. He always know and work hard for what he wants. That one this is an exception.
He chose to be a coward to stay in that person's life. Things he couldn't say had taunted him for years. He remembers, the faraway heartache from before.
Time always works its wonders. Along with time, the heartache become a mere memory of the past.
The memories come back towards like a rush as he slowly drifts to sleep. Like a lullaby, the unsaid words from before echo in his sleep.
'I want to be in your future... because in my future I already reserve a significant spot for you.'
It was a new beginning for them. First tour as duo, the tension was high and the pressure was even more immense. Throwing a wary look outside of the plane window, all he could see endless cloud. The winter sky looked gloomy as it was already almost the end of December. They were flying to Japan to complete preparation for their upcoming tour in January.
He felt an arm moved slightly beside him and let his eyes glanced to the left to see his only group member, his maknae who adjusted his position in his sleep. Their relationship was a little bit rocky during the first promotion as duo, as they were still trying to balance and dynamic together.
He had always regard the younger man as an equal to himself despite being two years older. Ever since he saw the determination shown by Shim Changmin before their big debut in 2003, he had soft spot for the young boy as he knew how hard he practised his dancing and singing to compensate his short training period.
Now they were in their 20s grabbing a new start and the young boy from before had grown into a fine young man.
A little bit taller than back then, a little bit more toned, a little bit more sarcastic, a little less affectionate towards him but one thing that remained was that boy from before was still beside him today.
He knew he should be content enough to have him as a bandmate. But human's greed always know no end.
He thought of the young boy who had always looked at him with clear deer-like eyes. As the years passed by, he never shy away to do silly stuffs, say nonsensical jokes as he knew that would keep those eyes on him.
He watched him grew up from an awkward teenage to the charming young man he had became. He knew he shouldn't have that kind of feelings nor thoughts about the younger guy. He didn't realise when his feelings had changed but he knew he had noticed it a little too late.
There were times he felt guilty when he looked at Changmin and wanted the other to acknowledge him more than a friend. He wouldn't dare to push his luck. He'd rather have Changmin as a friend than receiving his repulsed stare if he ever found out his feelings.
As he was lost in thought, he felt a nudge and noticed that Changmin had woke up.
"Are we there yet?" he asked, his voice is an raspy as he was still in his sleepy state.
Keeping a smile to himself, Yunho looked at him before replying, "We'll be there soon. Did you get enough sleep?"
He only hummed in response without even bother to look back at Yunho.
The tour was a success and they gave their final bow at Kyocera Dome with grateful heart with their hands clasped together.
"What are you thanking me for? We did it together."
'I'm not saying it as U-know Yunho but it's something Jung Yunho want to say to Shim Changmin.'
He didn't tell Changmin those words. Later, they were joined by everyone to celebrate the success of their tour. As they stumble back to their apartment later that night, Changmin was the first to retreat to his room. He looked at the closer door with swirling emotion.
'What would I do if you stop wanting to be here, Changmin?'
His heartbeat stuttered when he noticed what had happened. Swallowing his worry and frantic feeling, he looked straight ahead and continued to dance with all his might.
His concern turned to become anger but it melt down to another set of worry when he looked at the other's face as he tried to conceal his pain. As they went on the setlist, he heard the fans' worried cries, looking at the crowd near the stage, he noticed their faces were decorated with sadness, concerns and some were already streaked with tears.
He felt so much relief as they sang the last notes. All the dancers and staffs looked both terrified and concerned at the same time as both of them entered the dressing room with the leader finally revealed the expression he had suppressed during the remaining of the concert. The pain was clear on his face and his wrath was even more apparent.
He glanced at the leader before staring at each staffs who was supposed to be responsible for the set up.
"Who did the final inspection before the stage today?"
His tone and voice were surprisingly calm compared to his stare but those simple words undeniably laced with coldness and hidden anger. No one dared to respond to his question which made him unveiled his furious tone that he tried to hide.
"Do you want me to repeat the question? Who was it? Come on, there must be someone right?"
He started to become impatient before a voice broke the silence.
"I need a moment with Changmin, all of you may go and settle other tasks," Yunho dismissed the doctor who was treating his leg politely.
Everyone eagerly exited the room without making another eye contacts with the younger TVXQ member while muttering "rest well" and "get well soon" towards the leader. Yunho nodded his head in acknowledgement while maintaining his gaze at the back of Changmin's head.
It took a few seconds after the others had left before he finally turned and looked at his bandmate's injured leg.
"You shouldn't let them off easily. The accident would not happen if they did their job properly," Changmin said with exasperated voice.
"They already felt bad enough, Changminnie. We shouldn't scare them even more, at least not right now," he responded diplomatically.
He patted the empty space beside him on the couch, inviting the restless other half of TVXQ. Changmin exhaled in defeat before taking seat beside him.
"Does it still hurt a lot?" he asked in quiet voice.
Grabbing the other's hand, Yunho answered with a little smile.
"The doctor said it will be okay after a few day rests. I'm glad it wasn't your cable, at least I have better reflex since I'm a dancer, Changmin-ah."
Changmin huffed in annoyance at his words before leaving the seat to reach for a water bottle. He didn't want to dwindle on that feeling.
"Are you an idiot? Why should you be glad to be injured?"
"If by this way I can take of you, then I would be glad to."
There was a foreign look on Yunho's expression when he said that but it was gone instantly. He became even more annoyed when he heard the other's words.
"I'm not a child, I can take care of myself."
"Even if you're no longer a child, I will always want to care for you. "
There was a heavenly tune resounding in every corner of his heart. He attributed it to post-concert musical rush.
"You would make me lose all my hair if you keep getting yourself in that kind of situation."
"Don't worry, I'm still willing to be by your side even if you're bald," Yunho said with obvious muffled giggles.
Changmin glanced at him a second too long before rolling his eyes and replied under his breath, "You better be."
The tour ended with standing ovation and marked another achievement under TVXQ's name.
'I'll take care of you as long as you need me to, is that fine hyung?'
Three years ago they wouldn't dare to dream they would be standing here. The red ocean seemed endless and the cheers were deafening. When the lightsticks changed colour and read "THANK YOU TOHOSHINKI" it left indescribable feelings in their hearts.
He looked to his side and saw a smile that could rival the brightness of red ocean in front of them.
'It was dazzling.'
When those eyes looked at him, he knew years ago he made the right choice. He held the gaze before he turned towards the crowds. He continued dancing and singing just like they had practised countless times ,but there were words his heart had whispered in secret at that moment.
On the second night, under the summer night sky he felt the hand he that had always held- either to support him or needed his support - during the last ten years, clutching on his fingers the moment they stood at the center of the stage at Nissan Stadium.
He stared at him for a little bit longer than before.
He held his hand for a little bit longer than he used to.
He wanted his attention for a little bit longer than yesterday.
He sought his time for a little bit longer than others received.
He loved him a little bit more than a friend should.
Buried beneath the loud cheers and applause, he swallowed down the realisation silently.
They retreated to backstage and saw the staffs and dancers were all in high spirit around them. He looked at him who was giving high fives and hugs to their dancers and band.
Finally, the leader walked towards him and gave him a bear hug and he whispered gratefully to him.
"I'm grateful that it's you who stay next to me, Changminnie."
'Is it greedy if what I want is more than merely staying next to you, Yunho?'
Seasons passed and in a blink of an eye, it was already 2014. The inevitable would soon approach and both of them knew there was no guarantee it wouldn't change a thing.
They were at their apartment, spending a few days to relax in between concerts for the tour. He didn't mind hours of practice but he also knew he liked the hours spent at here more. Home. Even if was not their country, but this place deserved to be referred as home. The place they still shared even after they had moved to different place once they stopped their dorm life in Korea. After that, Japan felt more like a home to him.
"Changmin-ah," he called the other softly. He knew that despite the other's anger toward him, he should try to be understanding as it was an important step in both of their lives. He didn't show any sign he heard his name was called even after a minute passed.
"Changmin-ah, I know you-"
"I don't want to talk about it," he replied sharply.
"Changmin, you still got few more years. You should try a solo-"
"We've talked about this. Plus I think it would be a hassle to perform alone," Changmin finally looked away from the TV.
Yunho looked at his other half- as he always said confidently- exasperatedly.
"The management said they will prepare solo schedule for you, Changminnie - whether it's acting or singing, whatever you want. You don't have to enlist along with me," Yunho tried to convince him.
He didn't get any response for a while.
"Maybe you're right. I should do my own thing. My life won't revolve around you forever, right?"
He could hear his own heart broke apart.
"Of course. You're all grown up now. You don't have to stick to hyung all the time."
He forced out a smile. It was harder to smile at that moment than dancing with his injured leg.
"Don't worry, hyung. I'm not that enthusiastic either to stick in your life."
He was looking but he didn't see the other's face.
'It's alright, spending time with him as U-know Yunho should be enough, right?'
It was the final stage in Japan. Their last stage there before the long hiatus. They had a little party with the dancers and staffs to celebrate the end of the tour. The atmosphere was light and friendly, but underneath the facade their hearts was thrumming with insecurity.
It felt like there was an invisible force, they kept glancing at each other and caught in action everytime leading to pretense half smile to conceal their feeling.
He left the area to get some fresh air. Stopping in front of a ceiling to floor glass window, he looked down at lights giving glow to the busy city.
"Hyung," he turned his head as he heard the ever so familiar voice.
"What are you doing here?"
"In the end you still going to enlist early. I should say thank you even I did ask you not to do it before"
"Well, to be fair we're not going to enlist at the same time. Plus it's a different unit"
"Always so witty with you answer," he let out a small chuckle to Changmin's nonchalant answer.
"You should've known me by now, hyung."
Changmin was grinning at him with his mismatch eyes this time.
"It would be a lie to say I didn't expect it...but I didn't dare to hope."
"Why is that?"
"Your life aren't going to revolve around me forever, right?"
Those words were painfully familiar. He had clung on those words for months to give himself a sense of reality.
"Hyung, I didn't ...."
"Well, at least it is a nice surprise for the fans. We'd just have two years hiatus instead of four."
He could't look at Changmin when he said that. There was distant looks in his eyes as he directed his glance to the floor.
'This is for the best. Maybe after two years, I could see him as a friend, someone who remembers almost half of my life.'
"Yeah. It's a surprise alright for them."
Changmin's tone made him look up. There was vulnerability in his voice.
"Are you scared? You can still turn back if you regret it." It felt insincere as he couldn't find it in him to mean those words.
"I won't regret it if it means I could complete the service around the same time as you, hyung."
"I won't let you go. Not only Choikang Changmin but even Shim Changmin is staying by my side."
He said it thoughtlessly. It was meant to be a joke to conceal his feeling to Changmin's response.
He only realised what he had done when he saw Changmin's expression falter.
"I...I mean, it would be nice to serve together. You get what I'm trying to say, right?" he tried to track back his words. Changmin wouldn't want to be treated as a possession.
He couldn't risk to lose Changmin before their service even started.
"...that," was only what he could hear. He was busy trying to search for the right words and missed what Changmin had said.
Staring at the younger man dumbfoundedly, he saw how insecure Changmin was when he repeated his words.
"I could do that," he said.
"What do you mean?"
"I could stay by Jung Yunho side as Shim Changmin, if that's what you want, hyung."
"Your words might make me misunderstand, Changmin-ah," he doubted he heard it correctly.
"What is there to be misunderstood? Just say it and I will do so."
"How could I selfishly ask someone to do that. Shim Changmin should live his life as he wish to, since Choikang Changmin already stuck by U-know Yunho for almost half his life."
It felt like a double-edge sword. Those words made him happy but he knew Changmin might not mean it in a way he wished for.
"Whether it's as Shim Changmin or Choikang Changmin, I already made the decision long ago," he was the one avoiding looking at Yunho this time.
He didn't dare to hope, but maybe it was the nerve. They had just completed the tour and would live a different life than they were used to for 2 years after this.
"...and what is it? Your decision."
"In this lifetime, and probably also for next lifetime if I'm lucky enough, I'd stay by your side until you tell me to leave," the words fell almost silently between them.
He felt his world tilted. He waited for the punchline as it couldn't be true. It was too good to be true. He couldn't utter a single word at that moment.
Changmin finally started to look irritated... and maybe a little scared.
"I decided to enlist earlier than other male celebrities at my age. You might find it weird, or disgusting," he looked pained when he said it.
"I might.... I might have taken a liking being by your side a little too much after all these years, Jung Yunho!"
His tone was injected with annoyance but the tips of his ears and his face was tinted with slight red. His face dimmed when Yunho still didn't say a thing.
Shuffling his feet backwards, he muttered jumbled apologies when Yunho finally stepped closer to him before hooking their fingers.
"I also enjoy your company a little too much, Changdol."
As if daring himself to look up, his silent question was answered when Yunho proceeded to stroke Changmin's palm with his fingers.
"Please don't blame me if I refuse to let you go after this."
"I can't believe you make me said those things. You better pay me back in tenfold," Changmin said while he scrunched his nose like a habit.
It wasn't clear who moved first but the space between them narrowed even more and they shared another new memories under the clear spring sky.
On the land where they went through a lot of hardships together from language barrier to homesickness, both of them whispered promises for a new beginning of something more.
'If I open my eyes right now, am I going to wake up from a dream or are you in my reality?'
The cheers somehow felt different this time. It was the encore concert before the impending enlistment. He knew there was a chance this could be the last time he had this moment. He showed his enthusiasm until the end and run around the stage.
When he stopped running and turned to look back, he saw him. He waited at that spot and saw his partner walked confidently toward him with a smile on his face.
It felt like the clock stopped ticking, the earth stopped spinning for that several seconds he took to reach him. Surrounded by the ever brightly glowing red lighsticks, it felt like the missing pieces in his life had been put at all the right places.
Yunho held out his hand and Changmin who had just reached him took his hand and held onto it tightly.
At that time, both of their hearts recited a silent vow towards each other. Maybe the red thread legend was real. Their fingers that were linked together looked like it was connected by red thread on screen due to glows from the lightsticks.
They looked into each other's eyes before facing their fans. Even if they had kept away their relationship from public's knowledge, in front of their fans' prying eyes, they felt unspeakable gratitude as in this lifetime, they were fated to meet each other due to this dream that they shared.
'Thank you for accepting my heart that has stubbornly decides to love you.'
After almost two years, it felt weird to be doll up again. The flashlights were blinding. He felt a little awkward to stand in front of the cameras.
Retreating to dressing room, he exhaled sigh of relief. He examined the reflection he saw on mirror.
He hadn't seen this face for almost two years. He had lived like a normal lad during that time. No glamourous idol make up. No fancy outfit. Not stylish hairdo. There's only one thing remain the same all that time.
"Changmin-ah, are you done already?"
He turned around to see the man who had just entered the room.
"I guess so. At least for today."
"Take it easy. It was overwhelming too for me few months ago."
They walked towards each other before the older man enveloped him in a warm hug. He could feel those lips on him temple.
"You can go back first. I'll meet you at home."
"Are you going to be late?"
"Not really. Just need to settle few things here and there."
He didn't move away from the hug immediately. He leaned into it more when Yunho carressed his back.
During those two years, they would ask leave on same days and spent their precious days off together. As they were soldier on duty, they couldn't go outside of the country so most of their days off were spent at each other's home. Despite the simple routine, he loved it a lot as he would spent his time doing mundane things with Yunho.
Their moment together was cut short when they heard knock on the door.
"Changmin-ssi, the car is ready."
"I'll be there in a moment."
He reluctantly let go of the hug. Yunho smiled fondly at him before brush his finger against Chamgmin's cheek while grinning.
"See you soon. Don't miss me too much."
"In your dream, mister."
He took his bag and walked to door without looking back.
When he arrived home, he could feel the unusual emptiness. He went straight his room and connect his phone to the charger.
He decided to shower when his eyes were caught by something on his nightstand. There was a picture of both of them smiling happily at the camera, celebrating their joined birthday dinner during their break from service.
'Thank you for going against the odd and allowing me to love you.'
He has just finished preparing their dinner. He calls for the other but there's no response at all. He decides to look for him.
The sight that greets him make him smiles helplessly. His so-called leader is sleeping while holding his phone in one hand.
He fixes the picture frame that has fallen on the floor.
"Hyung," he taps the other's arm slightly. Yunho opens his eyes and looks at him with endearing smile sleepily.
"You really have become old, aren't you? It's not even that late, you know."
"Hey, you're not that young either. I even had a nice dream just now before you wake me up," he stands up when his lover pull his hand.
Changmin raises his left brow in respond to Yunho's words, curious about the dream.
"I will tell you about it later." Letting the subject drops, he leads Yunho to their dining area.
Yunho looks at Changmin with guilt when he notices the food already nicely prepared on nicely decorated plates- which Changmin bought in Italy during his photoshoot .
"Changmin-ah,, sorry but I forgot to tell you I want to skip dinner today. Plus I already had proper meal today during lunch," he tries to explain it softly.
Unamused, Changmin glares at Yunho when he replies, "Lunch is almost 10 hours ago, hyung. Are you avoiding my cooking?"
"No, it's nothing like that. But my diet-"
His words are stopped immediately and there are only soft gasps and slick sounds fills the silence of their home.
After a while, both of them separated and rest their forehead against each other. Changmin is the first to walk away and takes his seat. He signals Yunho to follow the action.
"If you're not going to eat now, food will be your last concern you're not getting, hyung."
Obediently, Yunho quickly sits at the chair opposite him
"How could you say that to your boyfriend," he pouts at Changmin.
"As if you would have me any other way. I plan to spend a lot more days with you so better learn to adapt fast, Jung Yunho."
Smitten by those words, Yunho reaches for Changmin's hand across the table.
"Then I will continue to love you for all the tomorrows to come, Changmin-ah," Yunho says while caressing his knuckle.
"Like I said, sap," Changmin pulls away his hand but he reveals an unrival happiness in his smile.
'I have known you for half of my life but I will live the rest of my life with you.'