wasn’t just chance
when your eyes
© SoulReserve 2018
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For Changbin, everything about Seungmin is predictable. There’s always a certain kind of clarity in his every word, his every action. Never once has Changbin found any form of obscurity in the boy’s life. He is as clear as day, from the moment he wakes up, to the moment he falls asleep.
“Changbin. I think we need to talk.”
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, they have takeout for dinner. On Tuesdays and Thursday, they take turns cooking, and on weekends, they eat out. Changbin can’t remember the exact day they fell into that routine — but they just did.
“I’ve been… wanting to hold this off, for a really long time.”
In the mornings, Changbin always wakes up first, just to see the serene look on Seungmin’s face. Every time, Changbin pokes Seungmin’s cheek to wake him up, sometimes flicking his nose. And every time, without fail, Seungmin wakes up and smacks Changbin’s arm, laughing breathlessly with his eyes still closed. And every time, without fail, Changbin’s heart beats just a little faster.
“You keep coming home late nowadays for, what, the past six months? You never text me when you’re running late, and you just come home at midnight, sometimes one or two. Do you know how worried I get?”
In the evenings, Changbin always comes home to a tired Seungmin, worn out from a day’s work at the office. Every time, Changbin plants a kiss on his cheek and steers him away from his work, towards the bathroom, where he scrubs Seungmin’s hair with his honey-and-lemon shampoo. And every time, they dry each other’s hair, exchanging stories about each other’s days, before diving into bed and watching something on Changbin’s laptop until their eyelids are drooping.
Or at least, they used to.
“And I thought, maybe you’ll change. Maybe, if I wait long enough, you’ll change. But I feel like I’ve waited long enough.”
But Changbin is not Seungmin. Sometimes, there are days when Changbin can’t seem to predict what Seungmin will do. Sometimes, there are days when Seungmin kisses Changbin in such a fiery fervour that it brings him back to their younger selves, as if they’re young and hopeful again and kissing in the back alleys of their university, shying away from the eyes of everyone else around them. Or there are days when Seungmin comes home first and lights Changbin’s favourite scented candle, and hugs Changbin tight when he arrives home. Or there are days when Seungmin looks at Changbin as if it’s the first time all over again, innocent eyes locked against his own in such an unabashed manner.
Perhaps this is one of those days.
“I think… I think we should break up.”
For the first time, in a long time, Changbin glances up from his half-empty bowl of stew to meet Seungmin’s eyes. His eyes look tired. With his shirt half-buttoned and his sleeves rolled haphazardly up to his elbows, he looks like he hasn’t slept in a week. When Changbin doesn’t say anything, Seungmin sighs. “Did you even listen to a word I said?”
Changbin presses his lips together into a thin line, but doesn’t say anything.
“I think we should break up,” Seungmin repeats. “I think we need to break away from each other. We can’t keep going on like this.”
Like what? Changbin wants to ask, but in the very back of his mind, he knows exactly why. For once, his heart doesn’t lurch when he stares back at Seungmin, nor does his heart feel like bursting when he looks at how broken Seungmin looks.
All he feels is numbness.
Seungmin pushes his chair back and stands. “I’m leaving for Daegu tonight, actually. Seeing a friend. I don’t know when I’ll be back. Or if I’ll be back.” His eyes never leave Changbin’s, and Changbin can see how they’re turning glassy with unshed tears. “You probably didn’t even notice the bags in the room, right?”
Changbin did, when he was rushing to head to the train station after oversleeping this morning, when he’d tripped over the luggage but brushed it off of his mind. He wants to tell Seungmin, but his mouth stays clamped shut, his feet making no move to walk over to Seungmin and embrace him, to tell him not to leave.
After a long moment, Seungmin scoffs. His gaze flicks down to the ground. “I’ll… go get ready, I guess,” he chokes out. Without sparing another glance at the other, he strides off towards the direction of the bedroom, and shuts the door with a resounding click.
And when he hears Seungmin’s quiet sobs from the other side of the door, Changbin feels his entire world crashing down on him — and there’s nothing he can do but allow regret to creep into his heart, his body, and his soul.
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When Changbin first met Seungmin, he thought he’d never seen someone so ethereal in his entire twenty-one years of living.
Out of all the memories held in his mind, Changbin can replay this day clearly, over and over again, be it two or twenty years from now. Having overslept, he’d been rushing for class across the quadrangle at his university. With one hand clutching his iced coffee and the other gripping his phone to tell his friend he was running late, he hadn’t noticed the boy who was crossing his direction, until he’d crashed right into him.
In an instance, a chaos erupted. His hand held on tight to his phone, but his other hand collided against the boy’s arm, sending coffee splashing all over the boy’s sleeve. Changbin yelped as he fell over the boy, narrowly missing the boy’s head against the ground if he hadn’t shifted his weight.
“Could you look where you’re going?” the boy griped, gritting his teeth as he glared up at Changbin. Frazzled, Changbin looked back down at the boy, only to have the wind knocked right out of his chest. The corner of the boy’s lips was curled downwards into a scowl, but his eyes were wide with surprise.
Somehow, even in the frazzle of the moment, Changbin drank in the sight of the boy — no, more like he drowned in it. There didn’t seem to be anything particularly awe-striking about the boy, but there lied something attractive about him, something so subtle that Changbin couldn’t help but stare longer to figure out what it was. Maybe it was the curve of his eyes. Or the mole on his cheek. Or the lower lip he jutted out in frustration.
(Years later, Changbin knows what it is — the way Seungmin looked at him as if they were the last two people in the world. Fervorous. Bold. Everything that Changbin had faked until he’d made it.)
Changbin took a beat longer than necessary to process the situation. When the gears in his head started moving again, he hurriedly picked himself up and lent a hand to the boy. “I am so, so sorry,” he spluttered. Every word came out in a frenzy. “I was rushing for class, and I didn’t see you coming, and I crashed into you and now my coffee’s all over your sleeve, and-”
The boy raised both eyebrows at him. “Hey, hey, it’s cool,” he said. He glanced down at his coffee-sodden shirt with a sigh. “As long as neither of us got hurt.”
Their fingers were still intertwined, and Changbin flushed as he let go of the boy’s hand. “Um,” he coughed. “I’m… I’m Changbin.”
The sharp lines of irritation softened as the boy chuckled and smiled. It was like watching the sun rise, a rapturous sight that you were tempted to gaze on in awe but didn’t, for one would worry you’d go blind from the temptation of its beauty. “I didn’t know we were exchanging names,” he laughed. “I’m Seungmin. I’d say it’s nice to meet you, but…” He gestured at his clothes.
The name Seungmin ricocheted off of the walls of Changbin’s head. “Right,” he nodded. “Honestly? I feel kinda bad for this whole thing. Uh, I can lend you one of my shirts…?”
The smile on Seungmin’s face sharpened into a grin. “I thought you were running late for class, though?” he asked innocently.
“My dorm’s only five minutes from here,” Changbin explained. “And we could just go, and get a shirt, and be on our way.” And maybe share our numbers. “I’d only be missing a few minutes of class, anyways.” And I’d get to know you a little, too. “And I wouldn’t want you walking around with… with my coffee on your shirt, y’know?”
The laughter that arose from Seungmin’s chest was enough to set Changbin’s world turning on its heel. “Alright, then,” he replied. “Lead the way, Changbin-ssi.”
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Sometimes, Changbin feels like a goldfish in a glass bowl, watching everything go by in a set of stills, vibrant scenes flickering before his eyes. Helpless, with nothing to do or say. Hopeless, with no ability to change what’s occurring in the present, only living in its aftereffects in the future.
Right now, as Changbin opens the door to see Seungmin crouched on the ground with a bundle of shirts, he feels exactly like that same goldfish.
Seungmin doesn’t even tear his eyes from the floor. The only sounds that slice through the air are the rhythmic clicking of the fan overhead, and the rustling of fabric as Seungmin folds the shirts and places them neatly into his suitcase.
An old memory arises, of Seungmin packing Changbin’s bag after teasingly joking about how he could never fold his clothes properly, or about the times when he’d forget his toothbrush or pants on a trip overseas.
Changbin shrugs the memory off of his mind, and instead opens his mouth to say the stupidest thing yet. “Are you really leaving now?”
Seungmin glances up, and Changbin immediately regrets his words. He’d expected irritation to line his face, but all he sees is exhaustion, as if he were… fed up with him. “Yes,” Seungmin huffs. He snaps the suitcase shut and zips it in one go, before scrambling to his feet. “My flight’s in three hours. I’m just… I’m just going to go .”
And like the goldfish he is, Changbin watches as Seungmin props the suitcase up and brushes right past him, as if he were invisible. But he isn’t, and he can see it in the way that Seungmin bites down on his lower lip and forces his gaze away from Changbin. Like the goldfish he is, Changbin can only look on as Seungmin grabs his keys from the dining table, slips on his shoes, and hesitates only once before opening the front door, leaving and clicking it shut behind him.
Things don’t seem to piece together afterwards. Changbin remembers taking a long shower, allowing the water to cascade past his shoulders and drench his tear-soaked cheeks — maybe he never actually cried, maybe it was just the running water. He remembers drying his hair and lying down on the bed, and staring up at the ceiling.
Above his head, he remembers how plain the ceiling had been when they’d first moved. He distinctly remembers the day Seungmin had strutted into the room, beaming as he lifted up his tote bag. He can still hear the jokes Seungmin cracked about his height when Changbin tried to jump on the bed to slap the glow-in-the-dark stars onto the ceiling, can still hear Seungmin’s bubbling laughter ringing in his ears.
The stars they’d pasted on the wall over their heads now reflect the light off of the lamp beaming on the bedside table. They gleam down at Changbin in a galaxy, but not as brightly as they usually do. They gleam down at him in shameful mockery, dimly shining upon his face as Changbin stares back up at them helplessly.
When his eyelids slowly slide shut, the first tear runs down his cheek, then the next, and the next, until they fall in a torrent. Changbin parts his lips to breathe, but all that comes out is a pained gasp. He turns his head and crushes it against his pillow, before letting out the scream he’d been holding in his lungs. He cries harder than he ever has before, crying endlessly into the pillow that still carries the scent of Seungmin’s pine wood cologne, until it’s drenched wet with an ocean of his salty tears.
After what seems like forever, Changbin lifts his head up to the window, where the curtains are parted to make way for the night sky. He coughs as he tries to catch his breath, but makes no move to wipe his tears across his cheeks. Instead, he rubs at his eyes to clear his vision. Outside, the sky is a dark velvet blanket embedded with the brightest of stars. And perhaps it’s the hazy daze of regret that clouds his judgement, but Changbin swears he sees a lone star whizzing across the sky.
The shooting star seems to stretch across the sky. If Changbin squints hard enough, maybe he’ll catch sight of the wisps of its trails, as it blazes past his vision. He’s never believed in shooting stars, and he’s never believed in false hope, but in that space in time, he squeezes his eyes shut and allows his head to fall against the pillow.
And he makes a wish.
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When Changbin dreams that night, he dreams of a blank canvas. In his dream, he’s gripping a paintbrush in his hand, dipped in a can of bright blue paint. Slowly, he lifts the brush up and gazes at the blank canvas.
Carefully, he drags the brush over the canvas with one smooth stroke. The moment he lifts the brush, though, the stroke of paint disappears. Confused, Changbin paints across the canvas once more, but the same thing happens when he lifts the brush — the splotch of paint disappears. He tries again, and again, and again, but to no avail. Every time he’s painted one stroke, it disappears, time and time again.
Frustration builds up in his gut, and before he knows it, the paintbrush is clattering to the floor, and he’s hauling the can of paint up in the air. Mustering every ounce of energy in his body, Changbin hurls the can of paint against the canvas with a silent scream, enveloping it in a tsunami of blue.
What Changbin doesn’t realise is that, when he wakes up from this dream, nothing and everything will be the same.
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Changbin wakes with a startle. For a moment, he can’t seem to remember where he is, until last night’s events come flooding back to him in a fast-flowing current: the dinner, the break-up, the dream. He groans, screws his eyes shut and wills himself back to sleep.
“Changbin-hyung. Get up already, you’re late.”
Changbin groans. Great. He’s even hallucinating his voice now, and it hasn’t been a full twenty-four hours since the break-up. He shifts his arm, and when his fingers brush against skin, Changbin freezes.
He tilts his head just slightly to his side, only to see Seungmin shaking his arm. Seungmin. Right before his eyes. Kim Seungmin. Confused, Changbin blinks and rubs his eyes, just to make sure he’s seeing things right. Didn’t he see Seungmin pack up his things and leave him last night? Didn’t he hear Seungmin tell him that he wanted them to break up?
Had yesterday been a dream?
“Seungmin?” Changbin croaks. “What’re you… what’re you doing here?”
Seungmin gives him The Look, which consists of the signature roll of his eyes and a small smile on his lips. Looking at him now especially hurts. Changbin can feel the fond smile on the boy’s lips tug at his heartstrings. “Waking you up, stupid,” he answers curtly. “Someone overslept, and now you’re gonna be late for work.”
“Work?” Baffled, Changbin fumbles around for his phone on the bedside table. “But it’s a Saturday-”
He has to do a double take when he glimpses at the lock screen. Displayed across the screen, in huge block letters, is FRIDAY, DECEMBER 18. Changbin raises his hand to scrub at his eyes again, until Seungmin slaps his wrist lightly. “Stop rubbing your eyes,” he chastises, “and get your ass to work.”
All his thoughts are in a muddle. Changbin exchanges confused glances between Seungmin and his cell phone, back and forth and back again. He’s unable to comprehend whatever’s happening right now. Something clogs his throat, tightening around his larynx and swallowing his voice. “O-okay,” he stammers, before sliding off of the bed.
As soon as he does, his foot lands on something solid. Wide-eyed, Changbin’s gaze falls to the bright red suitcase staring back up at him.
“What the hell?” Changbin wonders aloud. He swivels around to look at Seungmin, then back down at the suitcase. “I thought… Why’re you here? Aren’t you supposed to be… supposed to be…” His voice dies down, feeble and shaky from confusion. What is going on?
Instead of the anger he’d been expecting on Seungmin’s face, all he sees is the look of a clueless puppy blinking back up at him. “I’m here because I live here…?” Seungmin snorts. “Damn, what dream did you have last night to get you this whack?”
The dots in Changbin’s head remain unconnected as he forces himself to brush his teeth and wash up in the bathroom. Nothing seems to make sense at all. If Seungmin had actually decided to come back, why’d he act like nothing happened at all last night? Why’s he acting like he hadn’t just broken up with Changbin last night?
Why’s he acting like they’re still together?
When he emerges from the bathroom, Seungmin’s still on the bed, scrolling through his phone. As he clicks the bathroom door shut behind him, Seungmin peers up from his screen and widens his eyes. “You’re actually going to be late if you’re going to continue at that pace,” Seungmin scolds. “I can only imagine the look on Chan-hyung’s face.”
Changbin gulps down his anxiety. “Seungmin-ah,” he calls. His voice is almost pleading. “Stop fooling around. Why’re you here? I thought you left yesterday, right? Why’d you come back?”
Cautiously, Seungmin sets down his phone and blinks in confusion. “What do you mean, ‘why am I here?’” He stands to his feet and shuffles across the carpeted floor to where Changbin is rooted stock still, until his ex stops right in front of him. “Do you want me to call Chan-hyung and tell him you’re not feeling well? You look really pale right now-”
“-Seungmin,” Changbin begs. He feels on the verge of a breakdown right now. His mind swirls as his hand catches Seungmin’s and locks their fingers together. “Please be serious.”
Annoyance overtakes concern on Seungmin’s face. “I am being serious,” he insists. “And I’m serious when I say you’re probably not feeling well right now. What is all this? Why’re you asking me all this? I didn’t… I didn’t leave you yesterday.”
The last few words come out feeble, and Seungmin visibly shrinks back a little. Changbin opens his mouth to protest when his phone starts blaring out its ringtone. He lets go of Seungmin’s hand and strides over to the bed, picks up the phone and reads the contact blinking on his screen. He swipes across his screen and lifts his phone to his ear. “Hello, Chan-hyung-”
“-Where the hell are you?!” Chan screeches. Changbin winces at the sudden ringing in his ears, and lowers the volume on his phone. “We’re airing in ten minutes. Ten minutes! I can’t believe you’re late on the day we’re launching our Christmas Week segment. Jisung’s been spamming messages at you, but you haven’t even read them yet. We need you here. Now.”
Their Christmas Week segment? Changbin combs through his memories and distinctly remembers starting off their newest holiday special just yesterday with the two of them. “Didn’t we do that, uh, yesterday?” he questions.
From the other end of the line, he can hear Jisung gasping aloud. “Dude, you have got to be kidding me,” Jisung wails. “I don’t know what the heck you’re talking about, and we really don’t have time for this — you need to fly over here, right now, this instance! Producer-nim’s glaring at us real bad right now.”
“But I thought we-”
“-Get here, now!”
And then Jisung hangs up on him.
Changbin lowers the phone, puzzled as he clicks over to his messages app. Sure enough, there’s a barrage of messages in their group chat, mostly a string of incoherent words and exclamation marks from Jisung. He scrolls up, trying to find the message he’d typed to them yesterday, how he was running late for work yesterday, but to no avail. It’s as if the message had dissipated into thin air.
It’s as if he hadn’t actually been late yesterday-
The gears in his head whir, and finally chink into place. Changbin inhales sharply, drops his phone, and immediately makes a grab for his clothes in the closet. From where he’s standing in the middle of the room, Seungmin folds his arms across his chest and sighs. “I guess you finally realised, huh?” he chuckles dryly.
Seungmin’s words waver in and out of Changbin’s consciousness as he yanks on the first shirt he sees, along with a pair of slacks. In a tornado of arms and sleeves and a belt, he manages to change his clothes in a matter of seconds, grab his phone and wallet and bag, and almost trip over his feet as he makes a mad chase for the door.
“Hey, hey,” Seungmin calls. Changbin swivels around, only to have the other run a comb through Changbin’s messy bed hair. When Seungmin steadies himself with a hand on Changbin’s shoulder, the latter flinches from the contact. Noticing this, Seungmin pulls back with a frown. “What’s wrong?” he asks.
Changbin wants to say so many things, everything in a jumble clogged in his throat. Before he can say anything, though, his phone begins ringing loudly again. Seungmin purses his lips together and lightly shoves Changbin towards the front door. “Never mind. We can talk about it later. Just get to work first, okay?”
Changbin hesitates only once, before leaning in and pressing his lips against Seungmin’s. Seungmin lets out an incomprehensible noise, but kisses back anyway, and it’s the way he cups the other’s cheek softly that almost makes Changbin cry out loud. And after Changbin’s pushed out the front door, and after he’s managed to almost barely catch the train to work, and after he’s finally allowed his beating heart to settle, he can’t seem to wrap his head around this new predicament.
What if yesterday never happened at all? Changbin wonders. From the way Seungmin acted as if nothing had happened yesterday, to the way Seungmin kissed him back as if they were still together… Changbin feels a bead of sweat roll from his scalp and disappear under the collar of his shirt.
When he gets off the train and runs all the way to the train station, all he can think about is the shooting star blazing across the expanse of the night sky.
“Aaand that’s the end of today’s segment, folks!” Jisung hollers into the mic. “Be sure to tune in on Monday as we count down to Christmas, here on JYP FM!”
“This has been RACHADAILY,” Chan announces. “Don’t forget to catch us every weekday at eight-thirty. I’m CB97-”
“-and I’m J.One-”
“-and I’m SpearB,” Changbin croaks. He clears his throat off-mic, before continuing. “Have a great day ahead of you.”
Chan clicks over to the radio station’s main theme music, and takes off his headphones. He still hasn’t made eye contact with Changbin, ever since the latter had skidded into the studio room drenched in sweat. Next to him, Jisung flashes Changbin an apologetic look and places a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Hey, look on the bright side,” he mutters. “At least you made it in time. We only had to improvise without you for, like, five minutes.”
Changbin groans. “Chan-hyung probably hates me right now,” he mumbles.
They shuffle out of the studio room, only for Changbin to face their producer. He winces as the man slips past Changbin, purposefully shoving his arm against Changbin’s. He gulps, eyes trained on the linoleum floor as they head out to the refreshments table, laden with biscuits, sandwiches and a coffee machine.
His stomach gurgles from the lack of food, and Changbin almost immediately dives straight for the table. As he wolfs down the sandwiches, Chan stares at him with an arched eyebrow. “You really overslept on our most important day, huh?” he asks.
Changbin stops mid-bite and lowers his sandwich. “Look, hyung, I’m… I’m sorry,” he mutters. “I didn’t really have the greatest night yesterday, and I don’t know why I overslept today. I just…” He shakes his head slightly. “I feel really weird.”
Jisung takes a sip of coffee and furrows his eyebrows. “You feel sick?” he quizzes.
“No, not that.” Changbin chews on his lower lip. “I feel like… like yesterday never happened.”
Chan cocks his head to the side. “Well, I guess that could happen,” he muses. “Yesterday wasn’t really eventful, after all.”
Changbin’s about to explain more, until he catches a glimpse of a woman walking towards Jisung, his back faced against her. His mind instantly flits back to yesterday, when the woman had crashed against Jisung’s back, causing Jisung to spill his coffee all over Chan’s pants.
Before he can make a move, though, the woman bumps right into Jisung. Jisung yelps and loses balance, falling and splattering coffee all over Chan’s pants. Changbin feels his heart skip a beat as Jisung topples to the ground, as Chan screeches and makes a frantic grab for the tissues.
It was as if he were watching a stop motion movie. Every frame happens one by one, all played in slow motion in his mind. Changbin squeezes his eyes shut before opening them again, just to see if he was imagining things. But he wasn’t — the woman’s spewing apologies at Jisung, and Chan’s still wiping away at his slacks. And Changbin just stands there, in wide-eyed awe, as the scene plays before his eyes, exactly like how it did just yesterday.
Jisung yelps when he realises his coffee has spilled all over Chan’s pants. “Fuck, I’m so sorry,” he blabbers. He snatches up a few more tissues and hands them to Chan. “I think I have a spare pair in my locker — gosh, I’m so sorry.”
Chan laughs softly and smacks Jisung’s arm lightly. “Don’t apologise, Sungie ah,” Chan insists. “It’s not your fault.”
Beside them, Changbin stares on at the both of them in disbelief. His mind races back to his thoughts on the train. If yesterday really hadn’t happened, then maybe that meant that today was yesterday. Yet, that can’t possibly make any sense, right?
How can he be reliving the same day when no one else is?
If he can remember correctly, he knows exactly what Jisung is about to say next: “Hey, how about I treat us for lunch later, then? We can go to-”
“-the new Korean restaurant that just opened next to the coffee shop, the one right across the Han River,” Changbin finishes off absent-mindedly. He remembers seeing the starry-eyed gaze as Jisung had swooned over their kimchi stew yesterday and begged Chan to let him pay for lunch. He remembers the look of adoration on Chan’s face as he watched Jisung gobble up his lunch, laughing as he cracked a joke about his squirrel-like face.
Now, though, the both of them stare at Changbin in shock. Jisung stutters over his words, unable to form a sentence. “How… how the hell did you know that?” he splutters. “I didn’t even say anything about it yesterday.”
You did. “Just a hunch?” Changbin offers. He wipes his sweaty palms onto his slacks, at the realisation that shit, his predicament might just be right after all.
Both Jisung and Chan exchange baffled looks, but they don’t say anything as the three of them walk off down the long hallway.
Changbin feels like the same goldfish all over again, except this time, he knows exactly what happens with every next step he takes. He lives through yesterday all over again, from grabbing lunch with his two colleagues and planning the script for Monday’s radio session, to buying takeout for dinner and arriving home earlier before Seungmin. Everything happens in a dazed blur before his eyes, every scene flitting past his vision in a stop-motion picture.
When he shuts the front door behind him, Changbin flicks the lights on and sets the takeout bag on the dining table. As he does so, though, his mind suddenly reminds him of what is to come next.
Changbin swallows. The next scene will determine whether his predicament is right or wrong. His heart sinks to his stomach when he hears the keys rattling against the lock of the front door, and he turns around to see a tired Seungmin emerge at the door, his briefcase slung over his shoulder.
Seungmin glances up and notices Changbin. Something hits Changbin, something he hadn’t realised yesterday — the look on Seungmin’s face already says it all. Instead of tiredness, there’s a hint of nervousness traced in the lines of his creased forehead. If Changbin had only looked at Seungmin, properly, he might have predicted what was going to come yesterday after all.
“Uh. Hey,” Changbin greets.
Seungmin nods impassively, before slipping off his shoes. “What did you get for dinner?” he asks, without greeting Changbin back.
In this moment, Changbin can sense the tension in the air that lingers between the two of them. Right now, everything is displayed before him in plain view, as Seungmin shuffles past him to drop his bag in the bedroom, gaze purposefully avoiding Changbin’s.
If only Changbin had opened his eyes to see how evident things had been between the both of them, maybe yesterday wouldn’t have happened at all. Maybe none of this would be happening right now.
Cautiously, Changbin digs around in one of the drawers near the dinner table, and finds one of Seungmin’s favourite scented candles — sweet cinnamon. With a trembling hand, he searches for the lighter and flicks it on, the small flame grazing the tip of the candle before setting it alight. As soon as Changbin sets the candle down on the dining table, Seungmin paces into the room, his shirt unbuttoned, his sleeves rolled up.
The surprise is obvious on his face when Seungmin takes a whiff of the air. “Why’re you lighting a candle?” he asks. His face is set in a grim line, emotionless, but Changbin knows that the sight of his eyes tells the story of yesterday. “What’s the special occasion?”
Changbin forces himself to smile as he pulls out a chair. “Nothing special,” he says. He ushers for Seungmin to sit down, before plopping down into the seat directly opposite him. “Just because.”
Instead of suspicion, Seungmin’s face contorts into one of uneasiness. Changbin tries to ignore it as he unwraps the takeaway bag and sets down Seungmin’s food before him. “Bulgogi rice bowl for you,” he mumbles.
Seungmin nods absent-mindedly, before taking up the wooden chopsticks from the bag, splitting them, and digging in. Changbin has to tear his wary eyes from the other’s face to glance down at his own food. Soft tofu stew. The same as yesterday.
And if Changbin pokes and prods his food once more, the moment will pass, and turn to the next…
“Changbin. I think we need to talk.”
Even if Changbin had expected it, he wouldn’t have been able to stop the pang of his heart from happening. It stings his heart in a blow, and the pain spreads from his chest, down to his fingers, his toes. He has to lick his lips before muttering, “Yeah?”
Last time, he hadn’t looked up to see Seungmin at all. This time, though, he braces himself before tilting his head up, just to let their eyes meet. Seungmin sets down his chopsticks and releases a shaky sigh.
“I’ve been… wanting to hold this off, for a really long time.”
As the goldfish he is, he can only watch on and nod his head. The muscles in his neck ache to move. When he says nothing, Seungmin continues. “You keep coming home late nowadays for, what, the past six months? You never text me when you’re running late, and you just come home at midnight, sometimes one or two. Do you know how worried I get?”
Changbin had heard every single word, every single painful word, spill from Seungmin’s lips only twenty-four hours ago. And yet, the weight of the words hang heavier, as if they were slowly tugging Changbin’s body down, down, down to the ground.
“And I thought, maybe you’ll change. Maybe, if I wait long enough, you’ll change. But I feel like I’ve waited long enough.” Seungmin bites down on his lower lip, and Changbin feels the sudden urge to brush his thumb over his lips, a silent plea for him to relax, just as he used to do when they were still so young and so free.
He remains still in place.
He watches as Seungmin’s Adam’s apple bobs up, and down, before his ex parts his lips to speak. “I think… I think we should break up.”
Instead of the numbness he’d felt yesterday, Changbin feels his entire world shattering into a million pieces. Everything, from this morning until this moment right now, had happened exactly the same way as yesterday. Everything.
Nothing is different at all.
Instead of the silence he’d left yesterday, Changbin compels himself to open his mouth and speak. “Seungmin,” he whispers. “Are you really sure about this?”
His words are quiet, feeble, and he sounds almost broken. His heartbeat pounds loud in his ears as he watches the tears gather in Seungmin’s eyes. He wants to leap over the table and capture Seungmin in his arms, and plead for him to let his tears flow freely, rather than hide them from sight. But he is nothing but a goldfish, and he can only watch on as Seungmin swallows, hard.
“I’m really sure, hyung. I think we need to break away from each other. We can’t keep going on like this.”
“Like what?” Changbin demands.
Seungmin raises his eyebrows in shock. “You can’t possibly be asking me that,” he retorts. “You’ve been moping around for half a year since that incident. You’ve been nothing like yourself for the past six months, doing nothing but diving yourself into work. And I know that you stay back at your workplace to use the recording studios until God knows what time at night.” He pauses to take a deep breath. “But I never said anything, because I thought maybe composing music might help you relive again, and I thought maybe that’ll help you be yourself again.
“I thought, maybe, if I let you do as you wished, without thinking about me at all,” he whispers, “maybe then you’d open up to me again.”
An overwhelming wave of emotions crashed over Changbin. “If you were so frustrated by me,” he begins, “then why didn’t you tell me all of this before?”
“Why didn’t I tell you this before?” Seungmin repeats, dumbfounded. He shakes his head at Changbin and laughs dryly. “Guess what? I have. I’ve tried countless times, hyung. And every time I tried, you’d brush me off and tell me you’re busy with work, you’re going out tonight, or some other random excuse, on and on, again and again. How do you think I felt, having my feelings invalidated like that?”
Changbin feels the need to protest once more, but the denial easily disappears as distant memories come flooding into his mind: the times when he’d seen how Seungmin tried to catch Changbin’s attention, the times when he’d seen himself dodging the questions and coming up with a thousand excuses or more. The guilt gobbles him up, raw and real, gnawing away at his gut.
Seungmin exhales, his lower lip trembling. “You know how I felt for the past six months, hyung?” he asks, his voice laced with tight venom. “I felt like I was nothing but an observer in your life. As if I wasn’t your boyfriend. As if I wasn’t anything but a ghost, lingering in your wake, avoiding you whenever you were angry or frustrated by almost everything in this world. As if I wasn’t here, right here, with you.”
He scrapes his chair back and stands on shaking legs. “I’m leaving for Daegu tonight. Seeing a friend. I don’t know when I’ll be back. Or if I’ll be back.” His last few words are no longer as quiet as they were yesterday; they’re tight, as if Changbin had gotten spat on in vehemence. Seungmin tears his gaze away from Changbin and trudges off into the bedroom, slamming the door shut behind him.
And when he hears Seungmin’s quiet sobbing from behind the wooden door, Changbin thumps the table with his fist, willing himself to scream. But his lips remain clamped shut, and he slumps over onto the table, caught in a hurricane of his own anger and self-anguish.
Rewind Play Pause Fast Forward Loop
To this day, Changbin still doesn’t know why and how he deserved Seungmin’s love at all.
Strangely enough, back then, Changbin hadn’t asked for a first date with Seungmin. Instead, he’d texted him a Do you want to get some coffee tgt this Sat? and had squealed into his pillow the moment Seungmin had replied with yea, sure.
At that time, they’d only known each other for a few weeks, exchanging text messages and having the odd run-in whilst on campus. Nothing special at all. He’d been so sure Seungmin was just another new friend — until he wasn’t.
“Changbin-hyung. Is this a date?”
Changbin narrowly missed choking on his iced Americano. He glanced up from the coffee-stained receipt on the glass tabletop to look at Seungmin. Every time he looked at Seungmin, it strangely felt like the first time all over again. The wind would get knocked out of his chest, and something would blossom in the depths of his heart.
The emotion was only amplified by a tenth-fold especially that day, when Seungmin had sauntered into the coffee shop in a white button-down tucked into a pair of light jeans. He even had a silver earring dangling from his left ear, and Changbin had desperately tried not to swoon right before him.
Changbin lowered his cup. “Um. Not really?”
Something passed over the features of Seungmin’s face. A smile found its rightful place on his lips. “Is this not?” he mused. “You’re dressed up especially nice today, hyung. And you’ve even done your hair up. And you’re wearing eyeshadow. And-”
“-Okay, okay,” Changbin relented, grimacing. “It’s… It’s not a date, per se, but maybe I was just-”
“-Hopeful,” Seungmin offered.
“I was thinking more of ‘prepared’,” Changbin grimaced. Yet, no amount of protest could erase the crimson red blush splotched across his cheeks. He resorted to glimpsing down at his coffee and taking a loud sip, which only made Seungmin crack up.
Seungmin leaned over the table, cocking his head to the side. “Don’t worry, hyung,” he grinned. “Don’t think you’re the only one who’s hopeful here.”
This was what it was: youthful hope. Something that the both of them had held on to at such a young age, when they were innocent and thriving with naivety. Changbin had peered up, stunned, and gazed at the shy expression on Seungmin’s face. Without another word, Seungmin scrambled to his feet so fast that his chair scraped noisily against the greasy linoleum floor. And without a care in the world, Seungmin urged Changbin to his feet, ditching their coffees behind, and wrapped his fingers around his wrist.
Seungmin dragged him out of the packed coffee shop, down the cobbled pavement and past the cars whizzing along the road, and Changbin had let him do as he wished. His heart thumped harder than ever before as they wound through the city, until they eventually emerged at Yeouido Hangang Park, much to Changbin’s surprise.
The park was relatively empty at that time of the day, with a few couples here and there enjoying picnics as they basked in the late afternoon glow. Seungmin didn’t let go of his hand, even when they strolled up close to the barrier separating land from sea. The waters of the Han River reflected the sun’s rays, shimmering blue and silver at once.
With a sharp inhale, Seungmin turned to gaze at Changbin. “If you’d asked me straight up to go on a date with me,” he said, “I would’ve requested coming here.”
Up to that point in time, Changbin had believed that everything that Seungmin did was predictable. He’d predicted that they’d grab some coffee, talk about their lives and complain about assignments, and leave their separate ways. At that point in time, Changbin could only blink in stunned amazement at the boy who had stolen his heart right out of his chest.
Grinning, Seungmin slipped his hand into Changbin’s and allowed their fingers to intertwine. When their eyes met, Changbin could see the vast skies of the brightest stars in the boy’s eyes. He swallowed his pride and whispered, “I barely know you, Seungmin, and you barely know me, too. What makes you so sure that this is a date to you?”
Seungmin laughed, a ridiculous pfft haha! that had Changbin’s heart doing loop-de-loops. “Hope,” he smiled. “When you knocked into me that day, I was pissed as hell. When you offered to lend me a shirt, though, I was touched. And even though you’re older, you were ridiculously cute when you tried to ask for my number, y’know?”
The younger boy shook his head. “You want me to continue talking,” he laughed. “I can see it in your eyes.”
Of all the people he’d liked in the past, Changbin had never fallen for someone so fast, too fast. At that time, he hadn’t paid any mind when he’d felt his heart swoop and dive dangerously, lurching as he released his hold on Seungmin’s hand. Seungmin had parted his lips to complain, but nothing came out when Changbin’s fingertips grazed the other’s chin and tilted his head up.
“Maybe I do,” he muttered. “Or maybe I want to do something else.”
Seungmin smiled, and that was all the reassurance Changbin needed before he let their lips meet. When he pressed their lips together, his heart almost spilled from where it was caged in his chest. When Seungmin kissed him back with the same fervour, Changbin felt his knees buckle. Everything else in the world around them dissipated the instance Changbin felt the boy’s trembling hands clutch onto the hem of his shirt.
When they parted, Changbin could only grin against the boy’s lips. “Too fast,” he mumbled, more of a statement than a question.
Giggling, Seungmin pressed their foreheads together and slid his eyelids shut. “Maybe,” he replied. “This is different. You’re different.”
Changbin didn’t say anything. All he did was kiss Seungmin senseless again.
Youthful hope. Hopeful youth. Both were the same difference. They were young and hopeful and desperately in love, finding something different in each other and acting thoughtlessly upon their feelings, because they’d thought that they were each other’s everything. Maybe that was the case back then, but when Changbin thinks back at it, perhaps they were too young, too hopeful, and too reckless all at once.
He doesn’t know whether he can cherish this day the same way again or not. Either way, he’s terrified — terrified that he’ll learn to regret this very day in the near future.
Rewind Play Pause Fast Forward Loop
“Get up, Changbin-hyung!”
Changbin’s first thought is Oh, that’s Seungmin’s voice. His second is He sounds nice.
His third thought is Oh, shit.
He jolts awake, startling Seungmin who’s leaning over his face and shaking his shoulder. Gasping for breath, he struggles to sit up and stares on in disbelief at Seungmin’s face, etched with concern and wide-eyed surprise. The look on his face was akin to that of a lost puppy, and if this were a dream, Changbin would’ve pinched his cheek and cooed at him.
This isn’t a dream, Changbin realises. Rather, this is real life… or whatever the hell this repetitive cycle he’s fallen right into.
Yesterday night floods into Changbin’s memory like a burst dam: from the moment he’d woken up and was late for work, to the moment Seungmin had broken up with him and left him to wallow in his pool of guilt in the kitchen. Right now, though, Seungmin glances at him innocently, his lower lip pulled between his teeth. “You overslept, hyung,” he whispers.
Something erupts in Changbin’s chest, slowly but surely. He blinks at Seungmin, and the memory of his tear-sodden face from last night resurfaces in his mind. With a shaking hand, Changbin delicately places a hand upon Seungmin’s cheek and rubs his thumb over the soft skin there, in circles. Shocked, the younger stays stock still as Changbin runs his hand over the smooth skin.
His touch is feather-light, but the proof that Seungmin is right here with him weighs down heavy upon his shoulders.
“Hyung,” Seungmin frowns. “You’re crying.”
It’s only then that Changbin realises his vision has blurred with tears. He blinks, allowing the tears to spill out of the corners of his eyes and trail down his cheeks in twin rivers. “Ah,” he swallows. His other hand reaches up to wipe his eyes. He hadn’t even realised he’d been on the verge of tears. “It’s nothing, don’t worry.”
Before Seungmin can say anything else, his phone on the bedside table begins ringing loudly. Changbin sighs as he allows his hand to fall, the warmth of Seungmin’s skin under his touch disappearing as quickly as it had sunk in. He turns around to grab at his phone, and glances at the screen. Chan.
The day is repeating once more, and Changbin does not know what to do at all.
“You should get going,” Seungmin says, albeit quietly. Changbin figures he’s still surprised by the older’s tears, but he doesn’t point that out. “You’re going to be late for work.”
Hesitating, Changbin eventually gravitates towards going to work and seeing where things would go. He doesn’t pick up his phone call, though; instead, he opts to lean forward and press his lips against Seungmin’s forehead.
Seungmin laughs breathlessly. “What’s happened to you this morning?” he quizzes, eyebrows raised. “You’re particularly emotional today, huh?”
“It’s nothing,” Changbin replies, placid. He stays there for a moment, lips brushed against skin, before forcing himself away. He slides down the bed and gazes on at the confused look on his boyfriend’s face, before tearing his eyes away and shuffling into the bathroom to cry in the shower.
He barely makes it on time for work. Barely.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost or something,” Jisung comments once they’ve wrapped up the first day of their Christmas segment. Changbin’s tongue feels heavy after having repeated the same lines for the third time already.
He gulps down his coffee, careful not to grip the cup too tight. “Just tired,” he mumbles, before downing the rest of his coffee and tossing the cup into a nearby trash bin.
Chan eyes him with concern, but doesn’t say anything. Both his colleagues know him well enough that Changbin just needs some time and space to himself whenever he’s tired or frustrated. Right now, though, he’s neither of those things — he’s heartbroken.
If this isn’t a dream, and if this is real life, Changbin knows exactly what will happen the next second, and the next, and the next. He teeters on the fence between reality and his wild imagination, not knowing where he’s pitching himself towards.
All he knows is that the next moment is more of an impulse than anything else:
“Jisung!” he shouts. He yanks Jisung forward by the sleeve, sending him tumbling forward and spilling his coffee all over the floor. Behind Jisung, the woman who was about to bump into him snaps back to reality and gasps. She hurriedly turns away and slinks close to her friend as they continue to scurry down the long hallway.
Jisung blinks down at his coffee spilled all over the floor, seeping into the cracks between the tiles, then back at Changbin. “What the hell, dude?!” he splutters. “Why did you just do-”
“-There was a lady behind you who was about to crash into you,” Changbin explains. “After this, you’re going to recommend the new Korean restaurant that just opened next to the coffee shop, the one right across the Han River, for lunch. You’re planning to order the spicy kimchi stew because you said you had it the first time you went there, and it reminded you of your mum’s cooking.”
Once he’s done speaking, he hides his shaking hands behind his back. Dumbfounded, Chan exchanges confused glances between his two colleagues. On the other hand, all the colour in Jisung’s face drains away. “I-” He clears his throat, and tries to speak again. “Changbin-hyung, I don’t get how… how would you know that?”
Changbin gulps. “I need to tell the both of you something, or I’m going to go crazy,” he says. “Please. Believe me.”
The chopsticks in Jisung’s hand clatter to the wooden table. “What?”
Changbin scoops up a spoonful of rice and stuffs it into his mouth. “Yeah. I… I don’t blame you two if you don’t believe me. I know it’s absurd.”
The moment he’d told his friends about everything that had happened yesterday, from the second he’d woken up to the second he’d fallen asleep, he felt this weight lift from his shoulders. He can finally tell someone, anyone, of the ache that has been throbbing away at his heart for far too long.
Chan purses his lips together in deep thought. “No one else knows about this? About how your day just… repeats?”
Changbin shakes his head.
Having gathered his composure, Jisung pops a piece of kimchi into his mouth with a frown. “Why is this happening to you, and to no one else?” he wonders aloud.
“I don’t know,” Changbin says. “Everything was the same: I was late for work. I came home to have dinner with Seungmin. He broke up with me. End of story.”
“Was everything the same?” Chan asks. “Every word, every gesture? Or was there something different?”
“No, there wasn’t anything-” He cuts himself off. The memory of yesterday night resurfaces. He remembers lighting the candle, something he hadn’t done the first time. He remembers looking up at Seungmin, listening to him, arguing with him. Things he hadn’t done on the first night it happened.
Something had been different. And Changbin had been the one to change things.
Chan seems to notice the shift in his demeanour. “So something was different.”
“Things were different because I did something different,” Changbin mutters. He stabs his spoon into the bowl of rice and sighs. “But the outcome was the same.”
“I know this is a little personal of me to ask,” Jisung says, “but why? Why did Seungmin break up with you?”
Both of his friends had met Seungmin before, several times. They had seen his politeness through his greetings, his kindness through his gestures, and his love for Changbin in every hug or small kiss.
What they hadn’t seen was the string tying the two of them together finally fraying apart.
Changbin gulps. “You know how Seungmin is. He wouldn’t do that unless he thought it through and through. And he did.” His hand reaches out for his glass or water, and he swirls the glass around, letting the transparent liquid slosh along the sides. “I haven’t been the best boyfriend in a while. Actually, scratch that — I haven’t been a decent boyfriend for the whole of the past half year. I would do the same if I were him.”
“Why?” Chan quizzes. He leans in close, his eyebrows furrowed. “What do you mean by not being a decent boyfriend?”
“I come home late, I dodge his questions, I don’t make time for us,” Changbin bites back. He slams the glass against the table, startling the both of them. His fingers curl around the glass until his knuckles turn bone white. “I want to be better, but-”
“-you’re still hung up over that incident,” Jisung finishes. He licks his lips and glances back down at his rice. “We know, hyung.”
There’s a stirring in Changbin’s gut. Fury licks away in his chest at the remembrance of the incident all those months ago, now mixed with frustration. Guilt. Heartbreak. Maybe, if Changbin had just opened his eyes and looked a little closer, he would’ve seen all the little signs of their relationship cracking.
Maybe he already saw them. Maybe he just never acknowledged them. Maybe he thought Seungmin was the saint, the angel, the Cupid, who would somehow ensure their relationship would stay intact, that it could never fall apart into tatters.
Of course, he had expectations far too high for Seungmin to meet. After all, Seungmin is human, too.
“I have a predicament.”
Changbin peers up to see the small smile on Chan’s lips. “What, hyung?”
Chan clasps his hands on the table. “I don’t think you should be hung up over this, Binnie-ah,” he says. “I don’t see this as a curse, reliving the same day over and over again. I see it as a blessing — you have an entire day to prove to Seungmin that you’re still the same guy he fell in love with all those years ago.”
“I don’t see how-” And then the memory of the first day comes rushing back to him. How he had stared up at the skies and made a wish. How the paint in his dream appeared and disappeared with every passing stroke.
He had made a wish.
And the wish had been granted.
His body moves faster than his brain. Changbin scrapes his chair back and hurriedly fishes out for his wallet. He slaps a few thousand won bills onto the table and gazes at his friends with widened eyes. “I need to do something. Could you-”
“-We’ll email you our discussion points,” Chan affirms. He grins, the light dancing in his eyes. “So go get your man back into your arms.”
Changbin doesn’t need to be told twice. Within seconds, he’s made a grab for his briefcase and rushed right out of the restaurant. He tears down the crowded pavement, weaving his way in and out of the sea of passers-by. Several shoot him weird looks, one of them curses at him, but for once, Changbin doesn’t care. He doesn’t care at all.
When he reaches the bus stop, he types a quick message to Seungmin.
changbinnie: do u want to grab lunch tgt today?
Much to Changbin’s surprise, the reply comes to him in less than a minute.
seungmong: ur free?
changbinnie: is that a yes?
seungmong: what do u think, hyung?
seungmong: of course i want to have lunch with you
Rewind Play Pause Fast Forward Loop
Changbin only had an hour until his very official first date with his official boyfriend (boyfriend!), and he was caught in a very pressing dilemma over his choice of attire for a day at the mall.
“Look.” Changbin glanced up from the array of shirts spread across his bed in an orderly fashion, to look at the blank expression on his friend’s face. “What’s the point in stressing over your outfit? You’re already his boyfriend. You could show up in a trash bag and he’d still kiss you.”
Changbin pulled a disgusted look. “No way,” he snorted. “He’s the epitome of hygiene.”
Now, he loved Minho to bits, he really did — after all, he was his senior who would introduce him to Chan later on in his life, and thus would technically be the man behind his career. Right then, though, Changbin needed constructive criticism about his outfit, notwithstanding the eyerolls and disinterested mmhms he had been receiving for the past half hour.
“How about these jeans?” he asked, lifting up a pair that was ripped at the knees. “Oh wait, not this pair. This one clings to my ass like a bitch.”
Minho arched an eyebrow. “I say go for it,” he grinned wolfishly. “Maybe he’s an ass guy.”
Changbin wrinkled his nose. “Okay, hyung, I get it. You have a weird obsession with people’s butts. Pretty sure Seungmin isn’t into that.”
“It’s a pity, though!” Minho laughed. “You’ve got an amazing ass. Show it off already, man.”
Sighing, Changbin slung the jeans over his arm and decided to pick a button-down shirt to match. When he emerged from the bathroom five minutes later, he watched Minho scan him up and down, before showing a thumbs-up of approval. “Great. That Seungmin guy will be begging to get railed tonight.”
“Hyung!” Changbin groaned, tossing his other shirt right in Minho’s face. Still, he had to admit he felt absolutely buzzed. Every fibre in his body was electric with an overwhelming mix of anxiety and exhilaration.
Which explained why Changbin tripped over nothing when he met Seungmin at the bus stop exactly an hour later.
If he had thought Seungmin looked gorgeous when they grabbed coffee together last week, Seungmin was now an angel that had somehow bestowed the other with his presence. His hair was dyed a lighter brown. He wore a simple graphic tee and ripped jeans, but his smile was radiant.
“I like the new hair colour,” Changbin blurted.
Surprised by his bluntness, Seungmin giggled. “You’re already my boyfriend,” he countered. “There’s no need to flatter me.”
“Is it a crime if I want to flatter you?” Changbin replied. The grin on his face was instinctive, as if the mere sight of Seungmin was enough to make him gleeful. And maybe it truly was. He slipped his hand into Seungmin’s open palm and intertwined their fingers together. “Now, let’s go.”
Their first date went much like any other typical date: they caught a romance comedy at the cinema, bonded over dinner at Seungmin’s favourite Korean restaurant and shared ice cream for dessert. The entire night was a blur of technicolour as Changbin’s mind narrowed in on Seungmin and only Seungmin, the focal point of his entire being.
Every time Seungmin smiled, Changbin took a mental snapshot to picture later. Every time Seungmin laughed, Changbin recorded it in his mind to replay later. Everything about Seungmin enthralled him in ways no one had ever done to him before.
Hand-in-hand, they strolled down the walkways to ease off their heavy meal earlier. Out of the corner of his peripheral vision, Changbin noticed a neon signboard blinking at them.
“Seungminnie,” he called. He tugged Seungmin’s hand lightly, a signal for him to stop. “Let’s go there.”
At the sight of the arcade, Seungmin made a face. “You’re not going to try the claw machines, are you?” he asked. “Because those are definitely a scam.”
“Oh, Seungmin-ah,” Changbin grinned. “You’re going to eat your words soon enough.”
Maybe ‘soon enough’ was a bit far of a stretch. After ₩7,000 went down the drain, there was no turning back. Seungmin could barely smother down his giggles as he leaned against the wall, watching Changbin furiously waste away his luck at one of the claw machines. “Hyung, I feel more embarrassed than you are,” he laughed. “It’s okay. You don’t have to prove anything to me.”
Changbin tuned his boyfriend’s words out of his thoughts. His eyes were fixated on the little plushie gleaming almost mockingly back up at him. The instance they’d walked past the claw machines, he had seen the want in Seungmin’s eyes.
And now, his dignity was at stake, all because of Tony Tony Chopper.
He positioned the claw right over the miniature plushie. His tongue pressed against the inside of his mouth as he slammed the button. The claw jerked downwards, its arms grazing around Chopper, before letting go and shifting back up into place.
“It’s okay, hyung,” Seungmin said. For some reason, his voice was more serious now. The laughter in his tone was gone. He crossed his arms over his chest and sighed. “You don’t need to do this, you know.”
“But I want to.” Changbin turned around and pressed a quick kiss against Seungmin’s cheek. When he pulled back, he felt satisfied to see the reddening blush smattered across his face. “And what Seungmin wants, Seungmin gets.”
Seungmin sighed again, but he didn’t say anything else as Changbin fed his last token into the claw machine. Changbin made a small prayer to whoever was up there in the heavens, before inhaling deeply and setting to work.
This time, he made sure the claw was directly over Chopper. As he jammed the button, he kept his fingers crossed as the metal claw lowered itself over the plushie. His heart was caught in his throat in the same instance the arms engaged around the plushie. He couldn’t help the elated shriek as Chopper was safely deposited into the collection box.
“I got it!” Changbin squealed. He grabbed onto the plushie, swiveled around and grinned broadly at Seungmin. “See that? I told you I’d get it.”
“Yeah, after you wasted your wallet away,” Seungmin chuckled. He couldn’t deny the sparkle in his irises, though, as he cupped the plushie in his hands. The joy in his smile was infectious, and Changbin found himself embracing the boy tightly in his arms.
Seungmin laughed, hugging Changbin back. In that space in time, they were happy, content with life, with each other. There was nothing in the Universe that could testify against their youthful love for each other. And that was the perk of youthful love — they fell under the perfect illusion that they were perfect for each other, that they would forever be in love with each other.
That is what love does to you, and now, five years down the line, Changbin can’t tell if he can accept the harsh reality of it now.
Rewind Play Pause Fast Forward Loop
changbinnie: im outside ur office
Changbin shoves his hands into the pockets of his slacks as he paces up and down. He swallows the bundle of nerves that has gathered in his throat. After all, he had come here impulsively, with no thoughts, no plans.
Where is he even going with this?
“Changbin-hyung.” At the sound of Seungmin’s voice, Changbin swivels around to see him. His boyfriend blinks at him, the look on his face similar to that of a lost puppy. He’s wearing a beige button-down shirt tucked into neatly pressed slacks, and Changbin immediately regrets throwing on a hoodie and jeans to work today.
Seungmin cocks his head sideways, and his dark hair falls past his eyebrows. “Don’t you have work?”
Changbin gulps. “Yeah,” he replies. “I mean, well, no? Uh…” He smacks his lips together and looks elsewhere – looking straight ahead at the man who was about to break up with him speaks volumes too loud for Changbin to endure. “I just wanted to have lunch with you.”
Seungmin doesn’t say anything. He nods, before strolling up to Changbin’s side. “Where to?”
Somehow, they wind up at Seungmin’s favourite Korean restaurant, which is only a few metres away from his office. When Seungmin had first been accepted by the law firm, he had tackled Changbin on the bed and laughed cheerily. “It’s so close to my favourite place!” he’d announced.
Back then, Seungmin had swatted his hand playfully with a giggle. “Close enough.”
Naturally, memories of their first date drown out the sound of the tinkling bells overhead when they enter the restaurant and the boisterous chatter in the room. Changbin tries not to let the nervousness show on his face as they take a window seat.
Whatever he does from hereon is different. And somehow, some way, whatever that happens next will be different, too.
“It’s been a while since we’ve eaten here together,” Seungmin says nonchalantly. He flips through the menu, but his eyes remain on Changbin’s face. “Maybe since May or June?”
“Yeah,” Changbin nods. He flicks through the menu, but he already knows what he’s planning to get. Once they’re done relaying their orders to the waiter, he’s forced to return his attention to Seungmin.
Seungmin sighs. “Hyung.” He presses his lips together into a thin line, a telltale sign that he’s in deep thought. “What’s going on?”
He gestures between the both of them. “We haven’t had lunch together in ages. You’re always holed up in the studio. And somehow, on today of all days, you’re suddenly pushing aside your schedule to meet up with me.”
“Are you saying I can’t do this?” The words are meant to sound light-hearted, but the frustration from earlier rises up his throat and turns his words into something snarkier. He immediately regrets it and clamps his mouth shut.
He notices the glimmer in Seungmin’s eyes, a familiar glint that usually suggests that he’s ticked off. As soon as he sees it, though, it disappears in the blink of an eye. “I’m not saying that,” he assures. “I’m just…. Surprised.”
“Good surprise or bad surprise?”
A small smile finds its way to Seungmin’s lips. “What do you think, hyung?”
Before Changbin can insist for a clear answer from him, the waiter sets down a tray of side dishes and water. The topic dies down, instead followed by an awkward silence as they pick through the different side dishes.
Changbin doesn’t feel all that hungry, given that he’s eaten with the others earlier. Still, he can’t have Seungmin being even more suspicious of his ulterior motives, and so he pops a piece of kimchi into his mouth. “How’s work so far today?”
The surprise is evident on Seungmin’s face. His lips part unconsciously. “Uh…” He glances back down at his chopsticks. “It’s good so far. I had a meeting with one of my clients at around nine, and then I was going through the paperwork for the rest of the morning. Nothing interesting, really.”
The thing is, it is interesting. It is, because Changbin hasn’t asked Seungmin anything about his day, his work, or any of his clients for an entire half year. To hear Seungmin talk even the slightest bit of his life already has the guilt gnawing away more of his heart.
“It’s intriguing, though,” Changbin comments.
Seungmin laughs. “I’d ask you how your day went so far,” he says, “but I have a fair idea of it already.”
Changbin frowns. “What do you mean?”
“I tune into your show every morning,” Seungmin explains. “At least you didn’t entirely miss this morning’s segment. That would’ve been horrific. The script was pretty good, too.”
For once, Changbin doesn’t know what to say. He knows Seungmin sometimes listens to him on the radio, but he hadn’t expected him to tune in every morning. Somewhere down the line, had he begun to lower his expectations for Seungmin? Had he begun to underestimate him somehow?
All of a sudden, he’s learning new things he should’ve known far too long ago.
The waiter returns soon enough, setting down their trays before them — sweet bulgogi for Seungmin, bu jjigae for Changbin. Wordlessly, Seungmin takes up his bowl of rice, shakes it before setting it down and picking up his chopsticks. For a moment, Changbin relishes in simply watching the other sift through the glass noodles amongst the slices of beef.
The thing about Seungmin is that he’s no one particularly extraordinary. He’s not a knight in shining armour, nor is he the chic, popular lawyer at his firm. Beyond the surface, though, Changbin has come to learn more about the layers that make up Seungmin, from the eccentric way he chews on his water before he swallows, to the way he scrunches his nose when he eats something good. These are a few of the small, small things that no one else has the privilege of knowing until one gets to really know who Seungmin is.
To everyone else, Seungmin is just another person. As he sits here in this restaurant that bears a clear reminder of their young love, Changbin realises that Seungmin is everything to him.
“Is there something on my face?”
Changbin snaps himself out of his daze. “No, nothing,” he blurts. His eyes dart back down to his untouched stew.
His boyfriend frowns at him. “You’re kinda out of it today, you know?” he points out. “Did you have a nightmare or something? You cried this morning, and now you’re sort of… in another world altogether.”
“No, it’s not a nightmare,” Changbin persists. It’s not a nightmare, because nightmares linger in your imagination. The imminent break-up that awaits him, though, is a harsh reality. “I’m okay, really.”
Seungmin doesn’t seem to buy it, but he doesn’t press further. Lunch continues in this stagnant manner, save for the small bursts of conversation as they share their dishes with each other. Changbin lets himself chuckle when the sauce from Seungmin’s bulgogi dish ends up slathered messily across his mouth.
As they split the bill and pay for their meal, a little bit of the weight on Changbin’s shoulders is lifted. Something akin to hope flutters in his chest. Maybe something will change. Maybe things will turn out different.
Maybe, Seungmin won’t leave him after all.
They stride down the walkway, too full to return to work immediately. “I haven’t had such a huge meal for lunch in a while,” Seungmin admits.
Changbin frowns. “Seriously?”
“Yeah.” Seungmin lifts his shoulder in a casual shrug. “Usually, I’m swamped with work. I only have time for a few sandwiches. Sometimes, I just forgo lunch.”
“Then why the difference today?”
Seungmin glances down slightly at the other. The expression on his face is point blank, but his expressive eyes never fail to glimmer. “Because you asked me out for lunch,” he answers.
It’s a curt answer, devoid of emotion, but it rattles deeply in Changbin’s eardrums.
“Oh.” Changbin purses his lips together and averts his gaze. “Well. You shouldn’t skip meals, you know.”
“And… don’t stress out so much about work.”
The tension between them is crackling, a splint on the verge of igniting into sparks. Changbin forces himself to look in the other direction, and then he sees it. His chance.
One chance can make all the difference, can’t it?
“Do you need to head back soon?” Changbin blurts.
Stunned, Seungmin eyes his boyfriend warily. He glimpses down at the face of his watch. “I’ve got another half hour to spare, I guess.”
Changbin takes the opportunity by the reins, and intertwines their fingers together. He doesn’t give Seungmin time to process anything as he drags the other down the pavement. The two men stride down the walkway, watched on by the attentive eyes of passers-by. If they were still young and in love, they would have shied away from the silent judgement.
Now, Changbin doesn’t care at all, not when he has a man whose heart he needs to win again.
The arcade arena is gone now, having shut down years ago. Changbin can still recall the way Seungmin’s face had plummeted when they’d strolled past the shackled shoplot back in their university days. Situated outside the shoplot, though, is an aisle of claw machines and gacha machines, their neon lights blindly luminous even in broad daylight.
When Changbin eyes the gacha machines, his gaze falls upon a particular one that attracts him. “Hey, they have a One Piece machine here,” he points.
He peers up to read Seungmin’s expression. His face remains placid. “So?”
“So I’m going to get one of the figurines for you.”
Seungmin scrunches up his nose. “And what for?” he quizzes, the same thing he’d asked Changbin all those years ago, when the latter had offered to win the plushie for him.
“For fun,” Changbin hums. Before his boyfriend can protest, he’s already rolling a ₩1000 won coin into the machine. The machine beeps to life on command.
Changbin feels his hands get jittery as he cranks the handle. He turns it around once, twice, and then something tumbles out of the machine and into the collecting tray. He grins up at Seungmin, who watches him silently.
“I don’t get why you’re doing this,” Seungmin mutters.
With luck by his side, Changbin retrieves the capsule toy and twists the cap open. Nestled amongst the paper is a little plastic figurine of Tony Tony Chopper smiling up at the both of them. “Like I said,” Changbin murmurs. He plops the little figurine into Seungmin’s palm, and wraps the latter’s fingers around the toy. “For fun. And, well, for you.”
Realisation dawns upon Seungmin, and it shows on his face. His Adam’s apple bobs up and down as he fidgets with the toy in his hand. Speechless, he glimpses back up at Changbin, who wears a hopeful smile.
If Changbin can remind Seungmin of the days that they had spent freely and recklessly, of the days that they had wasted away as hopeful youths, of the days that they had been happy together, could he win his heart back? Could he reverse his decision?
Could it make all the difference?
They stand there, two men on the sidewalk. One man holds onto a little kid’s toy. The other man holds onto his heart. They stand there, for as long as they can have each other — for as long as Changbin can have Seungmin’s love.
Later in the evening, Changbin goes to see Seungmin again.
As Changbin approaches the towering building, he finds himself tilting his head upwards to where the peaks of the skyscraper seem to pierce through the tranquility of the clouds. The infrastructure of rows upon rows of glass windows and slate-grey concrete walls dominate over him, a speck against the cobblestone pavement. It glimmers with the notion of wealth, of power, of fame. Something that could be associated with Seungmin.
Something that might never be associated with Changbin.
It reminds him of a moment in passing, a haunting ghost from the past, and Changbin has to tamper it down when he notices the front doors swinging open. When their eyes meet, Changbin wants to believe that he feels fireworks under his chest.
“Hyung?” Seungmin frowns.
“Hey,” Changbin greets. His heart swells a little fuller at the sight of his boyfriend. “I was thinking we could grab dinner together? Maybe not Korean, since we had that for lunch earlier, but maybe some Chinese? Or Japanese? I’ve been craving for sushi-”
“-Changbin.” The serious tone of Seungmin’s voice cuts him off instantly. “What are you doing here?”
What was left of the hope in him swirls down in a drain. “Uh, I-I’m spending time with you?” he stammers.
The hand clutching onto his briefcase tightens, until Seungmin’s knuckles pale. He steps away from the front door and descends the steps to ground level. The last rays of the late afternoon sun frame his face in an angelic shadow, his hair tousled by the chilly breeze. “Are you?”
Before Changbin can respond, the other continues. “Or are you here because of something else?”
“Something else?” Changbin frowns. He tucks his trembling hands into the pockets of his coat. “What do you mean by that?”
Seungmin clicks his tongue and looks away. He’s pissed. No, more than that — he’s frustrated. When he glances back at Changbin, his eyes are fired up. “For once, hyung, could you be honest with me? Spit it to my face for all I care. What are you doing here? After all these months of radio silence, what are you doing here?”
For Changbin, everything about Seungmin is predictable. There’s always clarity in his every word, his every action. Never once has Changbin found some form of obscurity in the boy’s life. He is predictably easy to tick off, but predictably easy to please again.
Yet, today is different. The anger laced in the hard lines of his face show that he’s willing to put up a fight, even if it were to end with their relationship.
“I just wanted to spend some time with you. Seriously,” Changbin insists. His voice is shaky, and it’s not from the cold. His blood surges through his veins in a panicked haze as he realises his plan is going down the drain, and quickly. “I thought I could take some time off today to be with you.”
“Bullshit,” Seungmin hisses. “You’ve never taken any time off this year. What makes today so different?”
Changbin feels frustration begin to grow in his chest. He knows his anger never ends with good consequences, but he’s blinded by his emotions of despair. Of annoyance. Of love. “Stop raising your voice, Seungmin-ah,” he chastises. “Can’t we talk this out like normal adults?”
“Oh, how grand of you to say that.” Seungmin jabs his forefinger against Changbin’s chest. “You, who barely speaks a word to me at home, want us to talk this out on the street like normal adults. How grand is that?”
“Seungmin,” Changbin seethes. “Stop it.”
“Stop what?” Seungmin asks. His voice drips with sarcasm as he glares right into the other’s eyes. “I’m right. I hate to admit it, hyung, but I’ve had it up to here with your bullshit. I’ve been waiting for six months. Six months of me caring all about you, and your wellbeing, and your job. Six months of me skirting around you in the house like a ghost. Six months of me loving you despite everything that’s happened.”
Changbin swallows. The words hit him like a shotgun shot to the heart. It hurts, and hurts, and hurts. The pain is blinding.
“After all those six months, you come telling me you want to spend time with me. How do I-” Seungmin’s voice is choked up with welled-up tears, but he forces himself to continue. “-How do I know that this won’t be the last time you’re doing this? How do I know that this isn’t false hope? How do I know that you’re still the same person you were when I met you?”
Stunned, Changbin watches as the tears begin to flow down Seungmin’s cheek. His hand aches to reach out and brush away the salty tears, to stroke Seungmin’s hair, drop a kiss on his forehead and tell him that he’s still him. He’s always been himself.
And even then, Changbin wouldn’t know if those words would be true. Was he truly the same man who had won Seungmin’s heart all those years ago?
Or had he lost some part of himself along the way?
His hands remain by his side.
Seungmin sniffs. He wipes the tears away with a dry laugh. “I can’t believe I’m crying when I’m the one who’s…” His voice trails off. Changbin holds onto the last ounce of hope as it dissipates into thin air. “…who’s breaking up with you.”
And once again, the wind is knocked out of Changbin’s lungs. He can’t breathe. He can’t speak.
All he can do is stare on at Seungmin, like the goldfish he is.
Seungmin licks his lips and stares down at the ground, at their feet. “Hyung,” he whispers. “I’m sorry. I’ve tried so hard to keep this… this thing between us going. I’ve tried to be patient, and I’ve tried to be kind, but we can’t keep going on like this. We can’t.
“Honestly, I’ve been holding this off for so long. And I thought, maybe you’ll change. Maybe, if I wait long enough, you’ll change. But I feel like I’ve waited long enough.”
Desperation turns into anxiety as Changbin catches the other’s wrist. “Seungmin-ah,” he pleads. “You don’t mean that.”
“I do,” Seungmin insists. He tugs his hand away lightly. Changbin’s hand falls back to his side. “I really do. I think… maybe we just need a break from each other.”
Changbin can’t feel anything. His heart has grown numb. His mouth has clamped shut. His legs have rooted themselves to the pavement.
Seungmin lets out a choked sob. His gaze on Changbin falters. Hesitantly, he takes up Changbin’s hand with both of his. A weight lands on Changbin’s open palm, and when Seungmin releases his hold on him, the Chopper figurine gleams back up at him.
“I’m leaving for Daegu tonight,” Seungmin mumbles. “I’m sorry, hyung. I’m sorry I can’t do this anymore.”
Why is Seungmin sorry? Why is Seungmin the one to raise the topic first, to have his say first, to apologise first? And yet, the word sorry is clogged in Changbin’s own throat. Wordlessly, he watches the silhouette of Seungmin’s figure turn and walk away, head hung low as he strides down the pavement in the opposite direction.
Changbin stands there, a man on the sidewalk. In one hand, he holds onto a little kid’s toy. In the other hand, he holds onto his bleeding heart. He stands there, for as long as the punishing chains of love can hurt him.
Rewind Play Pause Fast Forward Loop
And, like clockwork, the stroke of paint disappears on the canvas, leaving it blank. And yet, the remembrance of its presence remains fresh on the canvas, gone but not forgotten, in Changbin’s mind.
Rewind Play Pause Fast Forward Loop
When Changbin graduated university, his senior Chan offered him a position as a radio host alongside himself and another friend, Jisung. That’s how he found himself juggling between the radio station and his own music endeavours. It was tough, to say the least, but the passion that lived in Changbin was what fuelled him to get through every passing day.
When Seungmin graduated university, he became a trainee lawyer at the firm where he had previously completed his internship at. After a year, they pooled their money together and made a home for themselves in District Apartments. That’s how Changbin found himself coming home every day to fervent kisses and quiet dinners and soothing baths. The love that had grown between the two men was what fuelled him to get through every passing day.
Routine was integral in their lives. Even though Changbin sometimes got his own way, he had to admit that it was thanks to Seungmin’s predictability that his life was in order. There was a certain disposition to Changbin’s days, from the moment he woke up to the moment he fell asleep, legs entangled with his boyfriend’s, nose smushed against chest. And he liked that.
Eventually, though, something would come along to not only cause their routines to crumble, but their relationship as well.
“Seungmin-ah.” Changbin stumbled into the bedroom in a whirlwind. His eyes were bugged out, wide with wonder and astonishment. His fingers tingled as he gripped the doorway. “Seungmin-ah, you won’t believe it.”
Seungmin peered up from his laptop. His glasses were sliding off of the slope of his nose, somehow making his demeanour even softer than it already was. “What will I not believe?” he challenged.
Glee bubbled up Changbin’s chest. He threw himself at Seungmin, wrapping his arms around his waist and squeezing tightly. His boyfriend laughed, hurriedly setting his laptop down on the bedside table before reaching up to stroke Changbin’s hair. “What is it, hyung?”
“They liked my song,” Changbin whispered. His lower lip trembled in trepidation. “They liked it.”
He watched as Seungmin’s eyebrows rose up to his hairline. “Holy shit.”
“I know,” Changbin giggled. “They want to meet me next week. They’re going to use my song, and you know how big the group is,” he babbled.
Seungmin smiled. His smile was warm, soft, and Changbin felt the urge to capture the other’s lips into a kiss and never let go. “I’m proud of you, hyung,” Seungmin mumbled.
His hands grazed past Changbin’s shoulders, tickled along the sides of his neck, and finally settled on his cheeks. He squeezed them together playfully, eliciting a breathless chuckle from the older. They braved the distance between them and fell into a rhythm familiar to their bodies, yet a sensation still unfathomably world-defying to Changbin’s aching heart.
They kissed long and languidly. Feeling a little braver tonight, Changbin slipped his tongue along the other’s lower lip, grinning when he felt the rumble of a groan against his own lips. When they pulled back, all Changbin could hear were Seungmin’s words, repeating over and over again, like a broken record tape. I’m proud of you, hyung.
And that was where the problem came along.
The previous week, Changbin had submitted a song to the management division of a popular K-Pop boy group. The song was a success, having won over the hearts of the group’s lead producers. And when he met with the producers, the deal had been simple: they would use his song, and he would be credited for it, and he would receive royalties for it.
The deal had been simple, but Changbin had been too young, too hopeful, and most importantly, too naive.
When the song dropped in June, Changbin couldn’t find his pen name, SpearB, credited anywhere at all. He didn’t receive his royalties. He didn’t receive anything — no recognition, no money, nothing.
And that was where he added fuel to the fire.
At that time, he knew Seungmin was tackling a huge case concerning a fraudulent transaction done by a rather huge company in Busan. He knew Seungmin was stressed out of his mind, catching trains at dawn, trudging home at dusk, too tired to do anything but sleep. He knew Seungmin was impatient, and ticked off, and frustrated.
Without any legal background knowledge at hand, Changbin took the case to court.
How could anyone have expected him to win the case? A little nobody was taking a small-scale case to court, fighting against a renowned entertainment company that had status, power and money. Things that Changbin didn’t have. Things that Changbin wanted, but couldn’t get.
Justice did not prevail that day, and Changbin returned home with a heavy heart.
And that was where the fire overtook his body, burning everything inside and out. His body. His spirit. His heart.
And of course Seungmin knew. He knew Changbin had slipped beyond his radar, thrown all hell to the wind and underwent a case he knew he couldn’t win. He knew.
And Changbin remembers it as clear as day, how his boyfriend’s face had contorted from concern, to pity, to frustration, and eventually anguish.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Seungmin blurted. He grabbed Changbin by the shoulders and stared at him, square in the eye. His eyes burnt a hole through Changbin’s, deep and searing. It felt threatening, blindly threatening. “Why didn’t you tell me anything? I could’ve helped you. I could’ve gathered the expertise. I could’ve given you legal advice-”
“-Seungmin,” Changbin whispered. His voice was pleading, yet sharp as a knife, so unlike anything either of them had ever heard before. He waited until Seungmin’s hand slipped off of his shoulders before he continued. “Drop it. Please.”
Those three words were all it took to dent a crack in their relationship. At first glance, it didn’t seem like much. A crack, almost invisible to the naked eye, that had formed in their relationship. Dismissible, but unmistakably there.
A constant. A reminder.
Days passed, and Changbin didn’t move from his room.
Weeks passed, and Changbin didn’t speak to Seungmin.
Months passed, and Changbin didn’t speak at all.
Gone were the days when they spent their mornings curled up in each other’s embrace. Gone were the days when they bathed each other in tranquility, scrubbing away each other’s dirt and grime and worries. Gone were the days when they watched movies in bed until Changbin fell asleep, until Seungmin stood to flick the lights off and wrap his boyfriend’s arm around his waist.
And that was where Changbin knew he messed everything up. And he didn’t do anything to fix everything at all.
Somewhere along the line, they continued to love each other in ways that didn’t show their love. Changbin felt it wasn’t a matter of when things would patch together, but more of when things would fall apart for good.
Somehow, the love that their youthful hopes had held onto was waning. A love that had seemed so real and raw and perfect had dissolved into a crumbling heap of dust, waiting to be blown away by the winter wind.
Now, Changbin thinks about the day they first met, the day they first confessed, the day they first kissed. Maybe he regrets it. He should.
He really should.
He just doesn’t have the heart to.
Rewind Play Pause Fast Forward Loop
When Changbin wakes up, he doesn’t know if he’s relieved or saddened by the sight of Seungmin’s face. It feels like a punch in his gut, the pain blossoming across his skin a constant reminder that he’s failed once more to prove his love to Seungmin.
His arm is draped across Seungmin’s waist, and he quietly pulls him closer. Nuzzles his nose against the fabric of his sweatshirt, heavy with the scent of his boyfriend’s pine wood cologne.
Somehow, he’s woken up earlier this morning than the previous few. The soft gesture has Seungmin stirring awake. Seungmin rubs the lethargy out his eyes, a movement so gentle it makes Changbin’s heart ache. “Morning, hyung-”
“-Seungmin,” Changbin blurts. Surprised, Seungmin glances back at his boyfriend. He exchanges half-puzzled, half-dazed glances between the arm around his waist and Changbin’s eyes.
And then the words spill from Changbin’s lips. “Let’s skip work today.”
The silence that follows is deafening. Seungmin stares at him with a puzzled look on his face. He cocks his head sideways, messy bangs falling past his eyes. Changbin resists the urge to brush them away. “What?”
“You heard me right.” Changbin pronunciates. “Let’s skip work. Just for today.”
When his consciousness begins to chase away his sleepiness, Seungmin blurts, “You can’t skip work. You’re starting that Christmas segment with Chan-hyung and Jisung. You can’t-”
“-I can,” Changbin intervenes. He leans in, desperate for Seungmin’s warmth. Desperate for Seungmin’s warmth to embrace him and hold him and tell him that it’s okay. That the love between them hasn’t faded away. That the love between them is as clear as day. “And I will.”
Changbin wants to live under this false pretense for love as long as he can. As long as he can have Seungmin’s love, he’ll take it — and run with it, for as far as the eye can see.
It takes a message to call in sick to his radio station, a phone in sick to Seungmin’s law firm, for the both of them to sink back into the bed in silence.
Confusion is scribbled all over Seungmin’s face. He turns to face his boyfriend, the corners of his lips turned down into a disapproving frown. “I don’t get it,” he mutters. “Why are you cutting work? Why are we cutting work? Did something bad happen to you yesterday?”
Yes, Changbin thinks. Something bad happened yesterday, and yesterday, and yesterday.
A relentless, endless cycle of yesterdays, and they all still ended the same.
“No, I just…” Changbin glances down at their hands on the mattress. His pinky finger curls around the duvet, before inching closer to Seungmin’s. Once their fingers meet, he wraps his finger around the other’s with a small smile. He remembers when he’d done this gesture the first time so many years ago, teasing Seungmin with a breathless “If we hold hands, will the temperature shared between us remain at 37.5 degrees?”
Back then, Seungmin had laughed and swatted at Changbin’s arm with his free hand, but their pinky fingers had remained intertwined.
Now, Seungmin blinks down at their fingers in silence. “You just what?” he finally asks.
Changbin swallows. “Want to spend time with you.” His words are a dainty whisper, carried by the wisps of the air. When they curl into the shell of Seungmin’s ears, he notices the way they tint a deepening pink, spreading to the apples of his cheeks and down to his neck.
Before Seungmin can say anything else, Changbin adds, “Let’s stay at home. Do whatever we want. No work, just us.”
He gazes at the other’s face for any telltale sign of an answer. The expression on Seungmin’s face remains placid, but he knows the exact moment something crosses the man’s eyes, childlike and innocent.
Because, to Seungmin, this is the first time his feelings, his emotions, his love are all being acknowledged in the longest time possible. He wants this as much as Changbin wants this, too, and the both of them know it.
“Okay.” Seungmin smiles. “Okay.”
For the first time in a long time, they cook breakfast together. While Changbin cooks the rice and sets the table, Seungmin chops the vegetables and grills the beef. The aroma of sizzling beef wafts through the air, sending their stomachs gurgling loudly. Seungmin laughs, before his tinkling giggles are swallowed by the press of the other man’s lips against his.
After a hearty breakfast, they wash the dishes. Changbin tries to splash water at Seungmin, who only groans and flings the washing cloth in his direction. They wash the dishes, scrub the table, and even clean the kitchen until it’s spotless.
Changbin lights a cinnamon-scented candle, and they snuggle up on their couch to watch a crime thriller that Seungmin had recently been watching on late nights. He’s already mid-way through the third season, something that reminds Changbin of his absence in his boyfriend’s life for so many months now.
He tucks that away from his mind, instead channeling his focus on the drama and his fingers carding through Seungmin’s hair.
Too lazy to move from the couch, they order a pizza and some bread rolls to share for lunch. When Seungmin eventually gets bored by the show after noon, Changbin drags him off the couch and convinces him to do some yoga. They somehow find themselves engrossed in trying out some couple yoga poses, all of which end terribly, thanks to Changbin’s inflexibility and Seungmin’s body shaking tremendously from his endless laughter.
It’s only when Changbin slips and falls onto the yoga mat do they decide against continuing. Before he can lift himself up from the mat, though, he feels Seungmin clambering into his lap and, without warning, kissing him senselessly, unabashed.
Seungmin is so, so predictable, but so full of surprises, and Changbin basks it all in. His predictability. His clarity. His differences. Changbin takes them all in his hands and pulls them closer to him, their bodies pressed against each other impossibly tight.
This doesn’t feel real. The sureness of Seungmin’s kiss, the weight of Seungmin’s body, the thumping of Seungmin’s heart against his own. None of it feels real at all.
Their love, though, feels real, tangible and finally within reach.
When Changbin rolls them over, he raises himself up on his elbows as he leans back down and allows their lips to meet once more. The sensation is electric, sparks flying up and down his veins in streaks of lightning. Every time feels like the first time, over and over again. The buzz in his ears. The beat of his heart in time with Seungmin’s. Everything.
And soon enough, everything will become nothing.
The thought makes Changbin reel backwards in shock. Noticing the apprehension laced tightly on his face, Seungmin frowns. “What’s wrong?” he whispers.
Changbin doesn’t realise he’s crying until the vision of Seungmin begins to swim in his foggy vision. The first tear falls, then the next, and the next, and the next. They all roll off of his cheeks, his chin, and plop onto Seungmin’s shirt.
“Hey, hey.” Gently, Seungmin pushes his boyfriend back up into a seating position. His hands cup Changbin’s cheeks, fingertips brushing lightly against the tears to try and staunch the ocean of tears. “Come back to me, hyung. Come back.”
Come back. Those words sink deep into Changbin’s skin, reaching to the tips of his fingers, his toes. He almost laughs pathetically at the irony of it all. The idea of Seungmin wanting Changbin to come back to him, when the imminent future would suggest otherwise.
His heart swells and soars, threatening to burst at the seams. He really thinks it will, especially when Seungmin closes the distance between them to drop a tender kiss underneath each eye. The touch is so, so gentle, as if Changbin were something fragile about to break.
Changbin doesn’t think he’s too far off, though.
When the river slows to a trickle, Seungmin’s hands slide off of his cheeks. The warmth from his palms dissipates into nothing, leaving the skin there tingling with the cold. “What happened there?” Seungmin asks tentatively. “Are you okay, hyung?”
Even during the times when Changbin hadn’t been okay, he’d never admitted it, not in front of Seungmin. Even in the past few months when he’d never been okay, he’d never said it aloud. And each time, Seungmin had given him the benefit of the doubt. Always.
With trembling fingers, Changbin catches the hem of his lover’s shirt and curls his hands around the fabric. “No,” he chokes out. “I’m not… I’m not okay.”
Because you’re leaving me, Changbin wants to say. Because you’ve stopped believing in me. Because you’ve stopped loving me.
Because I’ve stopped being… me.
“I don’t know,” Changbin relents. He tucks his head into the small space between Seungmin’s shoulder and his chin, breathing in the scent of light sweat and pine wood. He lets the scent permeate his thoughts, leaving him heady with a pool of emotions. “I don’t know, Seungmin.”
For a moment, all he hears are his own sniffles and their light breaths. When Seungmin does open his mouth, he sings.
To say that Changbin is stunned is a devastating understatement. He hasn’t heard Seungmin sing in ages, not since Changbin had let him down.
His voice is quiet, sonorous. In an instance, Changbin catches onto the lyrics. The tune. The familiarity of it all blossoms something inextricably tepid underneath the cage of his chest. He lets his head rest there, eyes closed, as he cherishes this moment wrapped in the embrace of Seungmin’s arms, his voice, his song.
Someday everything will come to an end,
Only then, finally something will comfort me.
Having lost it all, another me full of understanding,
A better me will be waiting.
Rewind Play Pause Fast Forward Loop
When Changbin first heard Seungmin sing, they were at one of Seungmin’s friend’s 23rd birthday party. He was draped across the couch in the noraebang room as he watched his boyfriend laugh drunkenly with his friends. He hadn’t drunk at all, fearing he had to drag Seungmin’s wasted ass all the way back to his house. (And his fear had surely been met that night.)
“Seungmin-ah!” One of his friends, a freckled boy who flushed a deep pink from the alcohol in his system — he vaguely remembered him to be Felix — waved the microphone in front of Seungmin. “You haven’t sung yet! You neeeeed to!”
Another one of his friends — Changbin would later find out that this was Jisung, an acquaintance of Chan’s, and his future colleague — slapped Seungmin’s back with a wide grin. “Aw, is our Seungminnie too shy to sing in front of his hyung?” he teased. He probably meant to keep his voice low, but the liquid courage had turned his volume up several notches.
The birthday boy, Hyunjin, laughed and ruffled up the other’s hair. “Come on, Seungmin! One song for me,” he said jokingly.
Groaning, the look on Seungmin’s face blared his annoyance. Still, he snatched the microphone from Felix’s hand and shuffled to the centre of the room. He punched on a few buttons, and within seconds, the name of the song flashed across the screen.
Changbin gulped. He knew Seungmin’s playlist like the back of his hand (even the monthly ones), and he knew this song would come near the top of his favourite songs for almost every playlist. He’d heard the song play through his earphones, his speaker.
He’d never heard Seungmin sing it.
The timer on the screen counted down — 3, 2, 1 — and then Seungmin raised the microphone to his mouth.
And he sang.
I don’t know you yet
I’ve pictured you before
You might be different
But I don’t worry I might not recognise you
Changbin had never heard a voice so melodious, so gracious. Gentle, yet strong. Careful, yet powerful. A little on the nasally side, but somehow that made his voice lighter, peppier. His voice was — and still is — the most awe-striking thing Changbin has ever heard in all his life.
We might not do anything
But it won’t feel like a wasted day
Let time pass somehow
So we can meet
I hope I don’t miss you
The melody begins to rise, louder and louder. Seungmin’s voice is a whirlwind, rising higher and higher. Changbin’s head spins, faster and faster.
You and I have never met
But whenever we happen to come across each other
Sometime in the future, when our paths meet,
Let us recognise each other
From the back, all Changbin can see is the outline of his boyfriend’s silhouette, illuminated by the technicolour of the music video playing on the screen. His eyes slide down Seungmin’s figure, the way he cradles the microphone and croons into it, the way he shifts his weight cutely from one foot to the other.
He can’t see Seungmin’s face, but he can imagine his eyes squeezed shut. His nose scrunched up. His veins on his neck popping a little. His lips almost grazing the head of the microphone. Changbin feels himself melt a little bit more, fall a little bit more in love.
At that point in time, Changbin wondered what he had done in his life, or the previous, or even the one before that, to have deserved the love of an angel that had descended upon him to grace his world.
But maybe that was the thing. Maybe Changbin had been too hopeful, too youthful. Maybe Changbin hadn’t deserved Seungmin’s love after all.
Stay as you are
So I can know that it’s you
Still, in that space in time, Changbin wanted to deserve Seungmin’s love. He really did. That was, perhaps, the epitome of his pitfall.
Later that night, Changbin had walked Seungmin all the way back to his house. He had to steady Seungmin on his arm, but he wasn’t about to complain. He savoured the heat emanating from Seungmin’s body, and the way Seungmin drunkenly whispered something along the lines of “Wow hyung! You’re soooo strong!” which had stirred something so carnal in his gut, he had to stamp it down with considerable effort.
Once they reached the gates guarding Seungmin’s house, Changbin leaned the boy against the gate to punch his security code. “We’re home, Seungmin-ah,” he whispered.
Seungmin grunted, eyelids beginning to slide shut. He hadn’t even drunken that much, just a couple of shots of soju and a bit of vodka that Felix had handed him. Then again, it wasn’t like Changbin could talk. He could pass out with just a sip of beer in his system (something he wished he hadn’t had to experience with Minho of all people. He’s sure the video of him drunkenly serenading a lamp post before keeling over onto the pavement was still stored somewhere in the guy’s gallery.)
Looping an arm around his waist, Changbin shoved the gate open with his free arm and stumbled into the front yard with his boyfriend in tow. They slowly made their way up the cobblestone pavement. Changbin helped him onto the porch, and was about to key in the security code on the front door, when Seungmin parted his lips.
“Hyung,” he called. “Did you like my singing?”
The question threw Changbin off. “What?”
A lopsided grin splayed across Seungmin’s lips. He’s so, so drunk, but so adorable. “My singing,” he repeated. He dipped his head down until his breath fluttered against Changbin’s skin. “I sang that song for you.”
Changbin smiled. “Would it be narcissistic of me to say that I knew that?”
“No,” Seungmin countered. “Just observant.”
The numbers punched under Changbin’s thumb beeped robotically, and within seconds, a whirring sound and a click announced the opening of the mahogany wood door. “Come on, let’s get you inside-”
“-You didn’t answer the question. About my singing.”
When Changbin glanced back at his boyfriend, he saw something flash across the latter’s eyes. Nervousness? Frustration? The flicker of the light in his eyes died down, though, and he was left to stare into a pair of emotionless dark pools of irises.
The better part of Changbin tried to quell his rising emotions. The worse? It heightened his admiration and his attraction for the boy with the angelic voice and devious pranks and extraordinarily huge heart. “I love your singing,” he admitted. “So much. And I love you.”
Maybe Seungmin was a little too drunk for that, or maybe Changbin hadn’t given him enough warning, because before either of them knew it, Seungmin was retching into the potted plant perched miserably on the porch.
After a hasty clean-up, two Panadols and a glass of warm water, they settled down on the small swing set overlooking the front yard and the night, the stars sewn against their dark backdrop. It was then that Seungmin said those three words back.
“You’re not saying that because I helped you destroy the evidence, right?” Changbin asked, after he’d gotten over the initial surprise. (Oh, how his heart lurched with joy! How his brain fuzzed out into a pile of shrivelled cells! Who knew three words could sound so heavenly?)
Seungmin smiled. “I’d kiss your stupid lips, hyung, but my tongue tastes revolting right now,” he sniffled.
“You could taste like curdled milk and I’d still kiss you.”
A hand swatted out to smack his thigh. “Oh, so now you’re waxing poetic on me,” Seungmin sniggered. When his laughter ebbed away, a genuine smile framed his features. “I love you, Changbin-hyung. For real.”
“But we’re young,” Changbin pointed out. “We’re young, and-”
“-Hey, you’re the one who said it first.”
“Yeah, that’s true,” Changbin admitted, “but you’re the more sensible one between us.”
A beat of silence passed. Seungmin exhaled, before turning to glance down at his sneakers. “We are a little young,” he agreed. “Not that young, though. Old enough to be mature with our thoughts, young enough to feel giddy after a few kisses or more. Maybe we kissed each other a little too early. Asked each other out a few weeks too early. Exchanged those three words a little too tipsy.
“Should we always regret it, though?” Seungmin wondered aloud. “Should we keep going back to those days, tear them apart, and analyse them scene by scene? Should we keep fixating on whether we’re saying things too early or too late? If we keep doing that, we’ll be stuck on the ‘what if’s’ and ‘should haves’. We’ll never think, ‘Oh, we’re here together now, and that’s all that matters’.”
The last few words had barely left his lips when Changbin arched forward, drew his love in with his palm around the other’s neck, and kissed him square on the lips. Post-retch breath be damned, Changbin kissed him deeply, as if caulking the hollow pit carved into his chest.
When they parted, Changbin smiled. “That’s all that matters,” he echoed.
“Yeah,” Seungmin nodded, still a little starry-eyed. “Yeah.”
That is what love did to them, and now, five years down the line, Changbin is sure he’ll keep coming back to this day, over and over again. He’ll keep getting stuck on the ‘what if’s’ and ‘should haves’, but the phrase at the forefront of his thoughts will always be ‘that’s all that matters’.
Rewind Play Pause Fast Forward Loop
After Seungmin had practically shoved him into the bathroom, and after Changbin had given himself a long shower and scrubbed the visible remnants of heartbreak from his face and body, Changbin stumbles out of the bathroom to see his boyfriend perched on the edge of the bed. He feels a wave of realisation crash over him when he sees Seungmin zip up the bright red suitcase on the floor, a few stray threads from a sweatshirt peeking out.
No, Changbin thinks. No, no, no. This can’t be happening. Not after everything that happened today had happened. Not after Changbin had cried in Seungmin’s arms.
This can’t be happening again.
“Seungmin,” Changbin whispers. He tries to calm his tone down, but his words shake and rattle deep in his throat. His voice box shrinks as it swallows his voice.“What are you doing?”
The other probably hadn’t realised Changbin’s presence, because Seungmin jolts up at the sound of Changbin’s voice. His face is stricken with shock. His hands are curled around the edge of the suitcase, knuckles whitening. His ears redden. “Hyung.”
Changbin trudges over to the suitcase, to Seungmin. He tries to keep his voice even. Tries. “What is all this?” he asks. “Where…” He swallows. “Are you leaving me?”
Of course he is, the voice in the back of his head echoes. Of course he’s leaving. Because no matter how many times you change the story, the ending remains the same.
No matter how painful the ending is, the story will eventually come to a close. Changbin hadn’t thought he would receive the closure so soon, too soon for his heart to stay still.
(And yet, somewhere deep down in the pits of his heart, he knew this would have always come to a close, too familiar to realise, too sudden to swallow.)
The time seems to drag on forever as Seungmin stands to his feet. He rubs his palms against the fabric of his shorts. “Hyung, look,” Seungmin says. His voice trembles, cracks at the edges. His eyes are shiny, the sight of tears almost imminent. Changbin can’t tell if he should feel remorseful or frustrated right now. “I need to tell you something-”
“-That you’re giving up on me,” Changbin spits. The venom laced in his tone is spiteful, blatant. Pitiful. And he doesn’t stop there. “Because you can’t keep waiting for me to change. Because I’m not the person who you loved five years ago-”
“-Hyung,” Seungmin admonishes. A confused look overtakes his face. “What are you talking about-”
“-Seungmin.” Changbin leaps forward, and grabs his boyfriend, the love of his life, by the shoulders. His fingers curl tightly around Seungmin’s shirt, both out of desperation for him to stay, and out of necessity, lest his knees buckle and give way. His breaths come in short bursts, too blinded by his aggravation to even breathe. “Seungmin. Please don’t do this to me. Please don’t leave me. Please. I beg of you.”
Seungmin stares at him blankly. His lower lip trembles. “How would you know-”
“-I’ve been reliving this day over and over again,” Changbin cries. “I know you’re going to leave me. I know you’re going to give up on me. I’ve lived through it so many times already, and it doesn't stop repeating, and I don’t know what to do. I really don’t. So please.”
He reels Seungmin close, yearning for his warmth, his singing, his presence. His nose slams against the shell of Seungmin’s ear, and he sobs right there. “Seungmin, please don’t. I really need you here. I promise you I’ll do everything to make it up to you. Just please don’t leave me.”
His cries crescendo into howls. He holds Seungmin close to his heart, wanting more of his love, more of his warmth. Wanting more, and more, and more, even if Changbin didn’t deserve it.
And he didn’t. And Seungmin makes sure of that.
Seungmin retracts slowly, holding Changbin a shoulder’s length away from him. He frowns at Changbin’s tears, but anyone could see that he’s holding his own tears back from spilling over the edge. “Hyung,” Seungmin whispers. “I’m sorry. I… need to. We both need to.”
“No, we don’t,” Changbin pleads. “No, please stay. I need you. I need you, because you keep me sane, and you keep me safe, and you-”
“-But I don’t feel sane here,” Seungmin retorts. “I don’t understand what you mean by you reliving the same day over and over again, but if that’s the truth…” He seems to hesitate over his words first, but before Changbin can pipe up, he continues, “Then how would I know that today isn’t some one-time thing? That you won’t go back into your stateless slump and leave me hanging? That you’ll…
“That I’ll what?” Changbin’s voice rumbles deep, desperate crawling past its peak. “I’ll what?”
“That you’ll finally learn to love yourself?” Seungmin blurts.
The tears finally overflow from Seungmin’s eyes, but he doesn’t move to rub them away. He lets them trail down his cheeks in hot torrents, dripping down his chin to the carpeted floor between their feet. “Hyung, I don’t know what you’re going through,” Seungmin whispers. “But you don’t know what I’m going through either, because you haven’t wanted to. Not for a long time.”
Every word is a stab to Changbin’s heart, hitting bullseye again and again. Even with his bleeding heart hung loosely on his sleeve, Changbin won’t give up. He can’t. “I will,” he begs. “I’ll make it up to you, I swear.”
“Seo Changbin.” Seungmin’s voice is deafening and final. He offers a sad, crooked half-smile. “I think we should break up. This isn’t good for either of us, and you know it. We both know it.”
By now, the world-shattering sensation should feel normal. Predictable.
The thing is, Changbin can’t accept this ending. And he won’t.
Even as he watches Seungmin wipe his tears with the back of his palm and haul the suitcase from the floor. Even as he watches Seungmin look back at him with a despondent smile, flight ticket in hand. Even as he watches the front door close, Changbin can’t accept this ending.
In this story, he will not. But in this story, he is only the goldfish, peering out of the bubble of his world as he can do nothing but watch Seungmin leave his life.
The ache in his heart is no longer nibbling away at his chest — it’s a full-fledged attack, consuming his body from inside out. He howls and thrashes against the sheets. He flings the pillows to the floor. He slams his phone against the wall. Tears the glow-in-the-dark stars down from the ceiling. Yanks the curtains so hard they fall apart. Lets the anguish rip up everything that embodies him.
When he falls to the mattress, Changbin thinks he might be going insane. How does he know what’s right from wrong? How does he know he’s living the right life right now? How does he know he’s living through the right story at all?
The exhaustion soon gobbles up every last shrivel of anguish in his veins. Changbin tries to battle against the lethargy, but he eventually allows his eyelids to close, his arms falling limply to his sides.
Soon, the day will begin anew. The day will follow the succession of yesterdays, the repetition of endings. The story that the day will unfold, though, will be nothing short of extraordinary.
Rewind Play Pause Fast Forward Loop
They should’ve broken up earlier. They really should have.
It’s a shocking revelation, but Changbin can’t deny the fact that they should have broken up earlier, even before the incident that had had them hanging on a thread for the past six months. He can’t deny the fact that they weren’t meant to stay together forever.
They weren’t meant to be, but they had taken what they’d had and ran with it.
Sure, they had their fair share of spats and squabbles over trivial matters; that was only natural. They would usually reconcile with a deep talk, a small hug or a soft peck to the cheek. They never let their emotions get the better of them — until sometime in December last year.
“I want to quit,” Changbin blurted.
He leaned his elbows against the edge of the pine table out of nervousness as he gazed at Seungmin. Stunned, Seungmin glanced up from his laptop and stared at Changbin in wide-eyed wonder. He opened his mouth to say something, clamped it shut. Opened it again. “What?”
They were facing each other as they sat at their dining table, takeaway bags left discarded by their side. Under the dim lights of their dining room, the irises of Seungmin’s eyes caught the ochre rays and reflected them back, leaving the dark pools shimmering with what could’ve been mistaken for unshed tears.
They might not have been there yet, but Changbin could tell they would spill over soon.
Changbin hid his trembling fingers under the curl of his fists. “I want to quit,” he echoed. “The job at the station. We both know it’s not what I want.”
“What?” Seungmin interjected. His voice revealed his dumbfoundedness, bordering on confusion. It made Changbin feel hapless, knowing he couldn’t make Seungmin understand. “But you’ve been doing it for a year now.”
“Yeah, I’ve been doing it for a year now,” Changbin echoed, exasperated. “What I do doesn’t constitute what I want to do.”
Seungmin lowered his laptop carefully, allowing the screen to darken over. “Hyung,” he said. “What’s going on?”
“I’ve been thinking, Seungmin-ah.” Changbin lowered his fists to his lap, where they began to unfurl and toy with the hem of his sweatshirt. “I graduated with a degree in music production. It wouldn’t make sense for me to be working at a radio station all the time, right? I was thinking that I could start producing music full-time, and maybe post them online or something, and then I would-”
“-Hyung.” He hadn’t even realised he’d averted his gaze from Seungmin, until his eyes flitted back his figure slumping in his chair. The expression on his face was unreadable. “Stop filtering through your words and tell it to me straight.”
There was authority in his voice, but Changbin sensed the smidge of frustration laced tightly in his tone. “That’s the truth,” he lied. “I just don’t want to-”
“-Be seen as lesser than me,” Seungmin cut him off. “I know, hyung.”
The words reverbated in Changbin’s head. Be seen as lesser.
The truth was this: Seo Changbin was — and still is — a man who took pride in his passions, his efforts, his everything. A man who found no contentment in reading a script off of the screen of his phone for an hour or so and calling it a day. A man who found no fulfilment in watching his dreams of becoming a music producer fading slowly, day after torturous day.
A man who found no happiness in watching his boyfriend achieve the greater heights he’d always wanted to attain. It came as no surprise, but Changbin hadn’t realised Seungmin would figure it out faster than he’d thought.
Seungmin clasped his hands together in exasperation. “Hyung, look, we’ve talked about this before. You’re not any lesser than me. Not at all.”
“My pay covers less than half the rent,” Changbin protested. “You work overtime nowadays, too-”
“-On my own accord,” Seungmin argued. “It has nothing to do with making more-”
“-It is. Because if you weren’t working this hard, then we wouldn’t be able to pay-”
“-Hyung, just shut up for a moment, okay?” Seungmin cut him off. He glared at Changbin, eyes narrowed into slits. The corner of his lips curled into a snarl. “I don’t care about the money. I don’t care about your job. What I do care about is the fact that you’re taking a huge risk if you quit the job at the station. Think it through, hyung.”
Frustrated, Changbin carded a hand through his hair and tousled it into a mess. “I’ve thought it through, Seungmin-ah,” he huffed. “I can do it. I just need the studio at the station, and I need the time, and I just…”
The real question was never What does Changbin want? but more of What does Changbin need? He wanted to be recognised for his music, his songwriting skills, his lyrics. He wanted to be producing songs for artists, maybe even for his own self. He wanted to achieve even just a sliver for self-realisation in this life of his.
What he needed, though, was validation. Reassurance. Something that could help him guarantee that what he was doing was okay.
“Changbin-hyung,” Seungmin whispered. “I get that you want to do what you’re passionate about, but I don’t think it’s the right time now. You got stressed up over your song last week, like, really stressed up. I don’t really think now’s the right time for you to do this.”
“What if I wanted to?” Changbin spat. What if I needed to? He scraped his chair backwards and scrambled to his feet. Tears pricked the back of his eyes, but he blinked them away. “You’re right, Min. You’re always right. Here you are, leading your successful life working the job of yours dreams, dating the irrelevant guy who thought music production would actually land him somewhere-”
“-Stop belittling yourself,” Seungmin pleaded. His face was contorted into a look of desperation, his eyebrows knitted together. “You’re not irrelevant-”
“-I am. I work a job at a radio station that barely anyone listens to-”
“-And it will land you somewhere, I promise-”
“-Not in this world, it can’t-”
“-Then what the hell do you want?” Seungmin screeched. His chest heaved as he panted, breaths heavy as the words crashed down upon the two of them. He released a long sigh, as if he’d been driven crazy. As if Changbin had driven him crazy.
It crazed Changbin how much his emotions would explode everything between the both of them.
He sniffled and turned around. “I’m just gonna go for a walk,” he muttered. He ignored Seungmin’s cries of protest, and instead stuffed his socked feet into a pair of boots, threw his winter coat on and slammed the door behind him.
All those months of walking Seungmin to work and gazing upon the towering building that could only uphold power and wealth. All those months of waiting for Seungmin to return home, ruffled and exhausted from work. All those months of writing and composing and producing and arranging that had led to a futile journey drizzling down the drain.
It hurt Changbin more than it should, and he didn’t even know where to begin.
He hadn’t realised he’d walked that far out until he felt his fingers begin to numb. He peered up from the sludge-sodden pavement and tilted his head upwards. A light flurry of snow fell around him quietly, so quietly Changbin hadn’t even noticed it.
His teeth began to chatter together. In a vain attempt to warm his hands, he stuffs his curled fists into the pockets of his coat. The cold has sunken through his skin, creeping up his arms and towards his heart.
Yet, Changbin knew he couldn’t turn back.
He knew Seungmin wouldn’t understand. No one did, so how could he expect the other man to understand? Seungmin was a practical man of values. Changbin was a dejected man filled to the brim with childish dreams. Seungmin was a realist who only understood things in black-and-white. Changbin was an idealist who still believed in youthful hope.
They had grown older, but Changbin had not grown wiser.
The sound of his name sailed over the wind. He’s jolted from his daze in a snap, and turned his head to the side. To his great surprise, he saw a figure weave his way through the crowd of people packed together like iced sardines, slipping between every nook and cranny.
When Seungmin emerged from the scene, the beanie on his head was lopsided. He was panting hard, bent over on the knees right before Changbin. After a long moment, he glanced up to meet Changbin’s gaze with a tired smile. “Hyung.”
Stunned, Changbin outstretched an arm to support Seungmin back up to his full height. When his hand grazed the smooth skin of Seungmin’s palm, it’s electric — something he hadn’t felt in a long while. A spark. An ignition.
In a flick of a switch, a thousand melodies coursed through Changbin’s thoughts. Amongst those thousands of harmonies and beats and rhythms, one voice stood out.
“Hyung,” Seungmin sighed. “Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t want you to go out in this goddamned weather, but then you did, and then I thought maybe it was for the best to let you walk around and let off some steam, but I also remembered you weren’t wearing any gloves, so I tried to chase after you, and-”
His words were cut off the moment Changbin tugged him into a hug. Despite the frigid cold, Seungmin was warm, comfortable. All of a sudden, it didn’t matter if the snow would fall around them, or if people would see them, or if Seungmin wouldn’t want him do as he wished.
It didn’t matter when he had Seungmin around, tucked right around the expanse of his arms curled around his back.
When they reeled back, Seungmin huffed. “Look, I really meant it, you know. I think quitting the job at the station is a bad decision, really, but whatever it is that you do…” His voice trailed off, and he swallowed down a bundle of nerves in his throat. “...Do whatever it is for yourself. Not because you see yourself as lesser than me. Not because you think you’re irrelevant, and certainly not because of the money.”
By the time he was done speaking, there were fresh tears glistening in his eyes, vignetted by the reflection of the ochre and yellow and red carlights passing across them. “Hey,” Changbin whispered. “You know what, Min?”
Changbin laughed. His whole chest warmed over, the flower that had once curled into its sepals under his ribs beginning to unfurl and blossom on a cold wintry night. “Thank you. I needed to hear that.”
There was no ounce of obliviousness in Seungmin’s voice. His tears had spilled over, but he sported a wide grin as Changbin replied, “Hear your words. Your voice.”
Seungmin could only smile weakly in return, before perching his head onto Changbin’s shoulder and chuckling softly, the snow continuing to envelope their warmth and love.
The differences between them were everlasting, but Changbin knew he wanted to make it work. He had to. He wasn’t going to lose Seungmin, the man who he trusted his entire life with, right now, right here, or anytime soon at all. He wanted Seungmin, his love and his voice, for as long as he could.
He was a selfish man, but more than that, he was a hopeful man. That day, he could only hope that their relationship would be everlasting, but now, he can’t seem to tell if he should’ve wished for something else that night.
Rewind Play Pause Fast Forward Loop
When Changbin wakes up in yet another yesterday, he realises the zeal that had embodied him, enrapturing him to prove his love over and over again in a film reel of yesterdays, is gone.
The pain is missing from where it had blossomed in the crevices of his shattered heart, but the lingering repercussions have burnt its mark against his ribcage. It weighs him down, pressing him back down against the mattress. It makes Changbin wonder if he can even get up.
That is, until a hand touches his arm tentatively. “Hyung, you have to get up, or you’ll be late-”
What makes Changbin snap is not the burning touch of his cold fingertips grazing skin, nor is it the delicate voice that could’ve fooled him into thinking that their love could be saved. What made Changbin snap is the realisation that no matter how much he poured his heart out to bleed the floors, there is no one there to clean up the mess. His mess.
If this was all futile, then why was he caught in this Mobius strip of yesterdays?
“I know,” Changbin huffs. He tears his arm away from Seungmin’s touch. When his eyes flick up to meet the other’s, a pang of guilt strikes his heart. He watches the expression on Seungmin’s face morph into discomfort, slowly reeling away from Changbin’s body.
Seungmin swallows. “Sorry,” he mutters. He slides off of the bed, hesitating for a beat of silence before he turns on his heel and walks out of the bedroom.
Changbin thinks this is for the best. Let him embody the goldfish in its bowl, viewing the day as it unfolded from the beginning to the end, just as it did the first time.
Let him embody the emotions that have left him unsettled, but more importantly, unloved.
He doesn’t change anything about his day.
He doesn’t kiss Seungmin goodbye. He doesn’t yank Jisung back, nor does he warn him of his impending crash. He doesn’t ask Seungmin out for lunch. He doesn’t meet Seungmin, nor does he win a little figurine for Seungmin. He doesn’t do anything.
He simply exists.
From where he’s idle in his fishbowl, he notices the nooks and crannies he’d never noticed before, not in his fervour fuelled only by the desperation to win Seungmin’s heart. He notices the way the winter breeze slices under his coat and prickles his skin. The way Jisung’s eyes linger a little more on the swoop of Chan’s neckline disappearing under the collar of his work shirt. The way Seungmin kicks his shoes off and leaves them unattended on the floor by the shoe rack.
Changbin doesn’t make a move to arrange them.
Is this what a goldfish feels? Watching mindlessly as the days and nights pass across its eyes, with not even the tools nor the heart to change anything at all?
For Changbin, almost everything about Seungmin is predictable. For tonight, he doesn’t need to predict anything at all.
“Changbin. I think we need to talk.”
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, they have takeout for dinner. On Tuesdays and Thursday, they take turns cooking, and on weekends, they eat out. Changbin can’t remember the exact day they fell into that routine — but they just did.
When the incident had come and gone, the routine had been left disregarded in tatters. The days blurred over each other — dinners for two became table for one. Leftovers were shelved away in the fridge. Sticky notes were taped to the tabletop with discreet messages. Sandwich on 2nd shelf. Fried rice on 3rd shelf. Heat in microwave. Night.
“I’ve been… wanting to hold this off, for a really long time.”
Changbin used to always wake up first, just to capture the serene look on Seungmin’s face, to poke his cheek to wake him up, sometimes flicking his nose. Now, Changbin wakes up late to an empty bed, and the vanishing warmth of a body that had once lulled him to sleep on the coldest of wintry nights.
“You keep coming home late nowadays for, what, the past six months? You never text me when you’re running late, and you just come home at midnight, sometimes one or two. Do you know how worried I get?”
Changbin used to always come home to a tired Seungmin, plant a kiss on his cheek and steer him away from his work, towards the bathroom, where he would scrub Seungmin’s hair with his honey-and-lemon shampoo. Now, Changbin coops himself up in the recording studios. Headphones over his ears. Phone face-down on the grimy tabletop. Voice rapping line after line until it became hoarse and croaky from overuse. Returns home to Seungmin passed out on the table, the couch, anywhere but the bed.
“And I thought, maybe you’ll change. Maybe, if I wait long enough, you’ll change. But I feel like I’ve waited long enough.”
Seungmin is not Changbin. Not even in a century will Seungmin come to understand the other’s love or pain, nor will he come to understand the other’s suffering. Still, there are moments when Changbin wants nothing more than to watch the corners of Seungmin’s mouth curl upwards, to listen to the voice of an angel rise from his lungs , to embrace him with all the love left in his broken soul.
No matter how much he hates this twist of fate, Changbin loves Seungmin, and he always will.
“I think… I think we should break up.”
For the longest time in a while, Changbin glances up to look at Seungmin. “Okay.”
The word is a syllable, drawn out cold and long by the dreary tension hanging between the both of them. Something flashes across Seungmin’s face, something akin to surprise or relief or a combination of both. A dichotomy so contrasting that it blinds the both of them from seeking for another answer to the question on the tips of their tongues: Can we try again?
“Okay,” Seungmin nods jerkily. He sets his chopsticks down on the table with a clatter, and rises from his chair. “I’ll be leaving for Daegu. Flight’s in three hours.”
Even if Seungmin could hide his shaking limbs under layers of clothing, he can’t hide the quaver in his eyes. They glisten with tears, threatening to spill over.
Changbin wonders if his own eyes can give anything away. Can Seungmin see him begging for him to stay? For them to try again?
When Seungmin enters their bedroom and shuts the door closed behind him, Changbin hears no sobs, no tears shed. All he hears is a zipper drawing a suitcase closed, a thud as the drawers are closed.
As the goldfish that he is, Changbin can only watch on in silence. He does not move from his chair, and gazes as Seungmin hauls his suitcase out of the bedroom. This time, there are no unshed tears glistening along his corneas. This time, there is no trace of frustration or anger or anguish. There is only the sad smile that Seungmin offers to his ex, before slipping on his shoes and twisting the front door knob open.
By the time the front door closes shut behind the silhouette of Seungmin’s figure, Changbin regrets it all. He regrets the day they met. The day they kissed. The day they moved in. The day they fought the first time. The day he decided to shut Seungmin out of his life.
What sets Changbin apart from his regrets, though, is his undying love for Seungmin. Because, at the end of the occurrences of yesterdays and what ifs and should haves, Changbin will rather bear the pain of loving Seungmin than feel nothing at all.
What sets this day apart from all the other yesterdays will be this: Changbin will not cry. He will, instead, shuffle into the bedroom and close the only drawer Seungmin has left open. He will peer into the mahogany wood, and he will see the little stuffed toy from all those years ago, tucked away in the corner of the drawer.
He will see the sticky note taped to the front of Tony Tony Chopper, and he will read it: Lead the way, Changbin-hyung.
What sets Changbin apart from any of the other yesterdays will be this: He will rip the sticky note off of the toy, stuff it into the pocket of his jeans, scramble for his phone and wallet and keys, and he will dash off and out of the house and down the stairs to the ground floor and out into the streets of Seoul.
For Changbin, he’d thought that everything about Seungmin was predictable. The hitch is this: no one is predictable, because underneath every human, there lie an infinite layers. Sometimes, we do things routinely, as if we were robots programmed to do everything as computed — but we aren’t. Other times, we do things on impulse — purely out of our emotions, our thoughts, and our whirlwind of passion and ardour that encapsulates our human nature.
That is what it means to be human. To feel emotions. To feel hatred, and anger, and greed, and hunger, and regret. To feel happiness, and excitement, and fright, and exhilaration,
No longer does Changbin want to be the goldfish in the bowl. He wants to smash the glass walls that surround him, and break free from the casket of murky waters, to take a breath of fresh air and do something, anything, to make a difference to today.
Now, Changbin knows. He knows that Seungmin still loves him, the way he loved him all those years ago. And now that he knows, he does the one thing he’s sure of right now.
Rewind Play Pause Fast Forward Loop
Seungmin nodded, grinning. His nose was pressed against the side of a fish tank, drinking in the sight of iridescent scales gleaming under artificial lights. If he had a tail, Changbin was almost positive that it would be wagging crazily by now. “We can’t keep dogs in the apartment,” he pouted, “But fishes are allowed!”
It hadn’t been long since they had moved into their apartment. It was a wintry January morning, and they had been on a grocery run when Seungmin’s eyes had landed on the newly opened animal shelter across the street. Changbin had thought a little harmless view at the cats and dogs would have been alright, but he’d never would’ve thought that fishes could be up for sale on the side, and now he was sludging through the repercussions.
Sighing, Changbin placed a hand gently against the back of his boyfriend’s head and ruffled his hair. “Let’s think about it first, Seungmin-ah. Fishes die easily if you don’t take care of them.”
It took half an hour, a couple of overexaggerated pouts and a charming smile to make Changbin hand his credit card over to the cashier begrudgingly while Seungmin ooh-ed and aah-ed over their first pet. He even let Seungmin pick out the name for it: Guppy. If Changbin had been a little less lovestruck, he would have pointed out the irony of naming a goldfish after a different species, but he couldn’t have cared less.
Long story short, Guppy lasted about two weeks before it died. Despite Seungmin’s tender loving care and Changbin’s extensive research, they found Guppy floating atop the waters one morning. After a long hour of remorseful tears and a promise of hot chocolate, Seungmin curled up next to the older on the couch as they gazed at the empty tank.
“Hyung,” Seungmin whispered. “What would you do if you were a goldfish?”
Changbin almost spat out his hot chocolate. “What?” he sputtered.
Seungmin shrugged. “Now that I think about it, all fish do is eat, swim around, shit in the water, and just stay floating. They can’t interact with humans. And Guppy was living all alone, too. All it could do was watch the world flash before its eyes.”
Bemused, Changbin mulled over this as he stared down at his boyfriend. “If I were a goldfish, I’d watch the world around me. Observe it. Fall in love with the little human who always overfeeds me and cleans my tank twice a day and makes kissy faces at me through the glass-”
“-Yah! Guppy looked lonely, okay-”
“-And I’d cry myself to sleep every night because I can’t do anything about it,” Changbin finished. He leaned down to kiss the top Seungmin’s head. “I can’t imagine living without you.”
Seungmin snorted. He smacked Changbin’s arm, earning him a strangled howl of pain. “Sap.”
“You love me, though.”
When Seungmin glanced up from his mug, Changbin swore he felt his heart stop for a moment. The dark pools of his irises caught the flicker of the overhead lights and reflected them, wide-eyed with wonder. There was always something inextricably alluring about Seungmin, something Changbin could never put into words. Something Changbin was in absolute love with.
Then, Seungmin tilted his head up and dropped a soft kiss against Changbin’s cheek. To Changbin, it felt like a warm reminder that the feeling was mutual, that their love was mutual, and would forever be mutual.
Sure, they were youthful and hopeful and naive. A causation of unadulterated emotions that threatened to implode on impact and shatter their worlds apart. A love so damned gorgeous that fate would test it, time and time again.
And so, here is the truth: Seo Changbin regrets the day they met, the day they kissed, the day they told each other that they loved one another. But if he could, he would live through all those days, again and again and again, if it meant that he would spend those days with Kim Seungmin once more.
After all, he’d rather hurt than feel nothing at all.
Rewind Play Pause Fast Forward Loop
What Changbin did not foresee, of course, was the weather.
The moment his shoes slap against the cobblestone pavement, he knows he’s made his grave mistake. In only his sweatshirt and jeans, the snow falls down insistently and piles upon his shoulders.
A little cold will not freeze his love for Seungmin, though, so he runs.
He swings on a pendulum, rushing from one deja vu moment to another — and this is certainly one of them. As he dashes amidst the sea of people, he dodges confused couples and brawny men cursing at him. His eyes latch onto the taxi sign erected not too far away from him. Within minutes, Changbin manages to halt right next to the taxi stop.
“Taxi!” he screams, to no one in particular. “Taxi! Please!”
Thankfully, his shouts seem to be heard by whatever gods are residing over him. By the fifth time he screams for the taxi, a vehicle screeches to a stop right in front of Changbin. The car even rolls onto the curb, causing Changbin to let out a squeak and stumble backward a little. There’s no sign on the car identifying it as a taxi, but when the front door is clicked open, the answer slides out of the driver’s seat and raises a perfectly plucked eyebrow at him.
“Changbin?” Minho calls. “The hell are you doing out here in- are those Crocs?”
Fate seems to be toying with him tonight; Changbin hasn’t seen his friend in the flesh for months now. “Hyung,” Changbin pants. Despite the frigid cold, he wipes his sweaty brow with the back of his palm. “Can I ask a favour from you?”
Minho blinks. He scans his friend up and down, obviously scrutinising his outfit. “Uh, sure? What is it?” he asks.
“I need you to drive me to Incheon International Airport right now,” Changbin blurts. Then, for extra measure, he adds, “Please.”
Minho chuckles. He folds his arms across his chest and tilts his head at Changbin. “My my, Changbinnie. We haven’t met in almost a year, and this is how you greet your hyung? I’m disappointed, honestly,” he sighs, shaking his head in disapproval.
The hope in Changbin’s chest deflates, but before he can splutter an apology, Minho jerks his chin in the direction of the passenger seat. “Come on. Whatever you’re chasing seems to be important enough for you to run out here in Crocs — and they’re hideous, by the way. Now get in.”
The urge to tackle Minho down to the ground in a bear hug is tempting, but Changbin needs his friend in one piece right about now. His grin almost splits his face in half as he hurriedly slips into the passenger seat. As soon as the doors are locked, Minho revs the engine and pulls the car back onto the roads.
“The road’s a little icy,” Minho explains. “So I can’t drive as fast as you’d like. Also, there’s a spare winter coat in the backseat if you need it. Now, please, pray tell me why the hell you were waving your hands around like a madman wearing Crocs in the coldest fucking winter of South Korea to date-”
“-I’m trying to get Seungmin back.”
He notices the vein that strains against Minho’s neck. “You broke up with him?” he shoots.
“No, uh… He broke up with me,” Changbin winces.
“He did?” The surprise is apparent in Minho’s voice. “Shocker. He’s always heads over heels for you. Could never shut up about you and all.”
Changbin rolls his eyes. “Nice way to rub salt on the wound, hyung.”
They turn a sharp bend, where they’re met with a traffic light. Changbin tries not to groan out loud. “Sorry, it’s just that…” Minho pauses for a moment as he thinks over his words, before continuing, “That’s not something he’d do on impulse, isn’t it?”
“It’s not,” Changbin affirms. “I fucked up. Like, really fucked up. I’ve ignored him, gaslighted him, and I’ve essentially been the worst person to him.” He lets out a choked laugh. “Now that I think of it, I wonder why he never broke up with me earlier.”
Minho taps his fingers against the wheel. “And now you’re trying to win him back,” he adds.
Well, at least that’s what I’ve been doing for the past few days, Changbin thinks. “Right.”
The traffic light turns green, and the car jerks forward. “Actually, Binnie-ah,” Minho begins. “Seungminnie called me. Like, last week.”
Surprised, Changbin turns to face his friend’s side profile. “What?”
“He called me,” Minho repeats. “And it was pretty clear he was out of it. He told me about what happened to you back in June, and what happened after. The thing is, he didn’t blame it all on you. He didn’t blame anything on you. Instead, he kept saying things like How can I help him, hyung?, or I don’t know how to be a better boyfriend to him, or I wish I could rewind time and save him.”
The last few words linger longer in Changbin’s head as they sink in. He gulps at the irony of it all. “Where are you going with this, hyung?”
Minho doesn’t look at him. With his eyes trained to the front window, he says, “I’m saying that he still loves you, Changbin-ah. He always has. I don’t think he knows what he’s doing right now, and neither do you know what you’re doing right now.”
A tinkling laughter bubbles from Minho’s lips. “The both of you need to get your shit together and talk it out. Especially you — don’t fuck it up tonight, not when I’m driving your sorry ass to the airport.”
Changbin frowns. “Since when did you know how to drive, though?” he asks.
“I’m surprised you didn’t ask earlier,” Minho announces. He turns a sharp bend, wheels grinding against ice. Changbin almost feels his heart leap out of his chest. “I just passed my test last week!”
“What?” Changbin screeches. This is bad. This is very, very bad. “Last week?!”
“Hey now,” Minho says. “Don’t be a prude. I only failed my test eight times. The least you could do is thank me!”
As soon as he says those words, he rounds a bend (and almost crashes into a nearby signpost) and emerges onto a street. To Changbin’s horror, the road brims with a river of red tail lights blaring back at him, winding along the entire length of the motorways for as far as the eye can see.
“N-no,” Changbin stammers. His hand grips onto the door handle, curling his fingers around the cool metal. He feels panic rise up his chest. “No, this can’t be happening.”
Minho’s eyes flit over to his friend. He wears a blank expression, but the smile he wears is a little sad. “Sorry, Binnie-ah,” he apologises. “I’m guessing it’s the snow that’s holding the traffic up. I should’ve used Naver Maps-”
Stunned, Minho blinks as Changbin twists around in his seat and makes a hasty grab for the spare winter coat. “Changbin, what do you think you’re doing?” he splutters, watching with widened eyes as Changbin unbuckles his seatbelt and yanks the coat on.
Changbin stops short, and flickers his gaze to Minho’s surprised face. “Getting Seungmin back,” he says matter-of-factly. A small smile is donned on his lips, a sign of youthful hope reviving the features of his face Minho hasn’t seen in a while — dimpled cheeks, the scrunch in his eyebrows, flushed cheeks. “What else?”
Before Minho can argue otherwise, Changbin pops the passenger door open and stumbles out of the car. “Thank you so much for everything, and drive safely, hyung!” he cries. He slams the door shut, and off he goes, running to the pavement and all the way down the walkways, back into the arms of his lover.
The lime green of Changbin’s Crocs winks back at Minho, and the latter can’t help but smile fondly. “Lead the way, Changbinnie,” he whispers to himself.
As the snow falls in an insistent flurry all around him, Changbin huffs and wraps the winter coat tighter around his body. The cold prickles his legs and his feet, and even with his hands stuffed into the pockets of the coat, he can’t seem to feel his fingertips.
What matters the most right now, though, is that he can feel his heart pounding against his chest. That’s what matters the most.
He dodges a few passers-by who cast him confused looks, but tonight, he can’t care less. He knows that the temperature has dropped by several degrees, that he’ll soon begin to lose feeling in his toes and calves and thighs, but what matters the most right now is that he can feel his heart pounding against his chest that signifies the youthful hope overflowing in his veins.
Lead the way, Changbin-ssi.
The memories break through the dam and rush in Changbin’s head, warming his chest. The memory of his first sight of Seungmin, all widened eyes and half-smile and innocent demeanour and hearty giggles, reemerges in Changbin’s mind. He had allowed himself to fall down, down, down, without realising how far he’d fall through.
This is different. You’re different.
The memory of his first kiss with Seungmin, all fumbled gestures and flushed laughter. It was like the first breath Changbin took after resurfacing from the waters, the air rushing into his lungs and relief washing over him. It made him feel strong, and safe, and himself.
You don’t need to do this, you know.
The memory of his first date with Seungmin, all bumbling nerves and sheepish smiles. It was like leaping over the moon and soaring past the stars and the comets and the asteroids, racing the extra mile to prove his worth to Seungmin. It made him feel appreciated, and gorgeous, and loved.
If we keep doing that, we’ll be stuck on the ‘what if’s’ and ‘should haves’. We’ll never think, ‘Oh, we’re here together now, and that’s all that matters’.
The memory of that night, seared deep into the crevices of Changbin’s mind, forces tears to glisten in his eyes. They were two boys, naive and youthful and hopeful, all bright and rosy and blissful and content and loved, because Changbin loved Seungmin, and Seungmin loved Changbin, and that was what their story entailed.
This is what their story entails.
And as Changbin nears the end of the story, he battles through the frigid cold and stomps through the sea of people towards the building in the near distance. His lungs are burning from the sheer exhaustion of his tired muscles, but he doesn’t stop, and he won’t stop, as he tears down the cobblestone pavement all the way to Seungmin’s arms. He almost slips and falls at a corner, steadying himself by only the windmill of his arms. Someone curses at him, but Changbin pays no mind.
Through the unshed tears, Changbin can see the signpost overhead reading Incheon Airport 1 kilometre. The youthful hope blossoms into full bloom in the heart caged within the bones of his ribs, and Changbin forces himself to push harder through the cold and lethargy and right towards the doors of the main entrance.
The gloominess of the snowy night gives way to the artificial lights glaring back at him from where they hung from the architecture of the building. He almost feels his pupils constrict as his eyes adjust to the lights. Changbin scans the vicinity, packed with people like frozen sardines where couples and families gawk at him in half-confusion, half-amusement.
None of them are Seungmin, though, so he starts running again.
His breaths come in short spurts. Changbin can feel his throat begin to constrict around the lump forming there, and he knows he’s running out of steam — and, with a quick glance at the clock, time — so he tries to skim through the electronic board beaming the different flights and their destinations.
Daegu. 23:30. Gate 34.
Changbin has never run this far, or this fast, in his entire twenty-six years of living. He’ll drive himself to the ends of his limits and far beyond them to save this one last yesterday he’ll share with Seungmin, in the hopes of a better today, and a tomorrow, and a tomorrow’s tomorrow.
As he weaves his way through the crowds, his heart thrums on a memory that pounds against his forehead in a splitting ache.
All it could do was watch the world flash before its eyes.
Changbin watches on as the world flashes before his eyes. He rounds the bend and gazes at the lounge area, directly facing the check-in counters. He knows that beyond this point, he’ll never be able to step another foot towards Seungmin. He feels the tears in the corners of his eyes threaten to overflow.
I’d cry myself to sleep every night because I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.
Changbin turns around fervently. Desperation seeps from his pores as he tries to make out the faces amidst the crowds, but his tears mist up his view. He lets them fall, and the world is clear once more.
Something strikes at his heart. A pang of something akin to familiarity curls around his heart and tugs him behind. He follows the scent of pinewood and swivels around. His eyes land on chestnut brown hair, and rosy cheeks, and hopeful eyes.
I can’t imagine living without you.
“Seungmin,” Changbin whispers.
Seungmin shakes his head, the confusion apparent in the way he tilts his head sideways. “What are you doing here, hyung-”
Changbin doesn’t let him finish his sentence. Instead, he scoops Seungmin up in his arms and reels him into an embrace that holds every ounce of love the feeble fire of his heart and soul will hold for Seungmin, for as long as he can have Seungmin. He lifts him up, until Seungmin’s feet leave the ground, and he twirls him around in his arms.
In this place and time, this is all that matters.
When he releases his hold on Seungmin, the tears are cascading down his cheeks in twin rivers down to his chin. Seungmin looks at him, properly looks at him, and cracks a small smile. “You’re crying, hyung,” he whispers.
His fingers reach out to brush away the tears. Changbin’s hand instantly latches onto the other’s wrist, and he forces himself to plaster an awry smile on his lips. “I’m sorry.”
Seungmin doesn’t say anything. Instead, the wrinkles gracing the corners of his eyes soften as his lips are pinched into a laugh. “Hyung, don’t apologise when you just ran all the way here; Minho-hyung called me and said something about you running to the airport in your Crocs, and I couldn’t even believe you did that until a description of you and your shoes came over the PA system here, and I…”
He pauses for a moment. Shyly, he shifts his gaze from Changbin’s eyes down to his chin. “I’m sorry, too.”
“I owe you a bigger apology,” Changbin blurts. His lower lip wobbles in trepidation as he speaks, and Seungmin notices this; he begins to massage out the kinks in Changbin’s shoulder, coaxing him to continue. “All these months of ignoring you despite all the love you were giving me, of invalidating your feelings despite all the help you were offering to me, of pushing you aside despite the fact that you stood by me throughout everything that’s happened… I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, hyung-”
“-And I’m sorry that I’m selfish. I want nothing more than to be by your side, to be listening to your voice and seeing your smile and everything else in between, because I want nothing more than to be yours, for as long as you’ll have me.”
Seungmin swallows. “Hyung, when did you get so good with words?” he asks, half-wittingly.
“Since you left me,” Changbin answers. His fingers curl around the sleeves of Seungmin’s hoodie, scared that none of this were real, that none of this were happening. The line that had been drawn between reality and imagination had been blurred many times over, and Changbin can’t even begin to believe that he’s finally where he’s yearned to be after all these yesterdays — right in Seungmin’s arms. “Since you left me, I couldn’t stop running.”
A hoarse chuckle rises from Seungmin’s throat. “You make it seem like I’ve left you for days,” he murmurs.
Changbin sighs. He leans closer, close enough for their foreheads to touch. The warmth that emanates from Seungmin’s body melts away the last of the anxiety knotted up in his stomach. “It seems like it,” Changbin smiles.
He lets his eyelids slide shut, because even with his eyes closed, he knows that there’s a little grin perched atop his lover’s lips. “I think we’ve both been cowards this whole time,” Seungmin admits. “We’re both running away from our problems. I thought running away from you would solve everything.”
“Well, it didn’t, because I ran to you.” Changbin snorts. “Guess I foiled your master plan.”
“We are in desperate need of help.”
When they pull back from each other for a moment, Changbin becomes acutely aware of the sea of people openly gaping at the two of them. “Should we, uh, go somewhere else?”
To Changbin’s stunned amazement, Seungmin smiles and shakes his head. “Nah,” he says. His hand slides up to Changbin’s jaw, thumb circling the apple of his cheeks. “You’re right where I need you. I’m not running anymore — we’re not running anymore.”
Changbin can’t hold back the sob that crackles from his throat. He braves the distance between them and allows their lips to meet. Love pours right out of his heart, cascading in waterfalls as the sentiment balloons in his chest and his body and his soul, because nothing has felt more right than this moment, right here, right now.
They let the kiss speak the words they’ve been too afraid to let their voices say all this time.
When they lean back, the warmth of Seungmin’s breathless sigh fans over Changbin’s face. He blushes as the small audience they’d attracted applauds for them. “Sorry, hyung,” he whispers, embarrassment tinting his ears a bright shade of pink.
All Changbin does is laugh, leer Seungmin even closer until their chests are touching, and kiss him senseless once more. After the neverending yesterdays that had shattered his heart into a thousand smithereens, he feels the searing burn of the kiss begin to piece together the remnants of his heart and restore all the youthful hope stored away under the cage of his chest.
It’s a sensation like no other, and Changbin is content with sharing this moment with the person he loves most.
They have things to say, things to apologise for, things to sift through and patch up and make up. It’s admittedly scary, terrifying even, but Changbin knows he’ll be able to do anything, so long as Seungmin is right where he needs him.
After all, they’re finally home.
Rewind Play Pause Fast Forward Loop
Changbin takes a step back from the easel and admires his handiwork. The canvas, once vacant with a thousand impossibilities, now gleams a vivid blue back at him. It reminds him of home. Of tranquility. Of love, and of chances, and of Seungmin.
Somehow, in this unpredictable world, Changbin has taken an infinite chances, changed his life for the better and returned back home into the arms of his lover. Unpredictable, Changbin supposes, but attainable.
After all, all he had to do was wish upon the stars.
Rewind Play Pause Fast Forward Loop
The quiet of the morning is a welcome to the two men. The fresh aroma of bacon and the sizzling of meat against the frying pan perfuse the calm serendipity of the morning. From where he’s sitting at the kitchen island, Changbin hums along to the tune streaming from the radio.
Paint chipped skies
Nothing is ever as it seems
Behind these codeine eyes
Blind to the world in between
Changbin’s eyes flicker over to the outline of his boyfriend hunched over the stove. Sunlight dapples his back where it faces the windows of their apartment, bathing Seungmin in the warmth of the day. Strands of his freshly-dyed cinnamon brown hair capture the rays of light where they drape down to the nape of his neck.
“Your hair’s getting a little long, isn’t it?” Changbin asks.
At this, Seungmin turns. The sunlight gleams against his eyes, reflecting off of his wood brown irises. “Yeah. I haven’t found the time to get it cut,” he answers.
And I flew to California
Thought I could leave
Every piece of you right here
“I like it long,” Changbin says. The moment the words leave his lips, though, he splutters over the realisation of how awful that sounded. “No, I didn’t mean your hair, I meant your di- I meant your hair.”
Seungmin narrows his eyes at him in a mock display of annoyance. “Right,” he chuckles, flipping the bacon over with the spatula in his hand. “Keep talking, hyung.”
“Seungmiiiiiin,” Changbin groans. “I didn’t meaaaaan it.”
His boyfriend flicks the stove off, before swooping the slices of bacon onto the spatula and settling them down onto two plates topped with scrambled eggs. “Wow, I love it when you talk dirty to me, hyung,” Seungmin deadpans.
He can’t shove the smile away from his lips, though, and they both know it. When Seungmin sets the plates on the top of the island, Changbin tugs his boyfriend by the sleeve until they’re eye-to-eye, and he kisses against the grin, allowing the corners of the other’s lips to turn upwards a little more.
Eventually, Seungmin lets himself crumble a bit under the grasp of Changbin’s hands around his arms, and deepens the kiss. It’s nothing more than a lazy morning kiss, something the both of them enjoy far more than they should, but they still relish in the scent of Seungmin’s peppermint toothpaste, Changbin’s morning breath, and the accompaniment of the song from the radio drifting through the kitchen.
Yeah I flew to California
Still wide awake
On the sun burnt it on clear
“Breakfast,” Seungmin huffs against their lips.
Changbin licks along the curve of the other’s lower lip. “Mm,” he hums.
“We’re going to be late for work.”
Sighing, Seungmin forces himself to veer away from Changbin’s reach. “Come on, hyung. Don’t go rushing for the train again.”
A contented smile finds its way along the features of Changbin’s face. As he scoops up a spoonful of scrambled eggs and pops it into his mouth, he waggles his eyebrows playfully. “It wouldn’t be the first time.”
Seungmin shakes his head, defeated. “It really wouldn’t.”
Still, Changbin knows better than to get on Chan’s bad side again, so he begins to wolf down his breakfast. In between bites, he shoots Seungmin a thousand questions. “How’s the case coming along? You stayed up late to gather the evidence for it, right? I think you can win this case easily, though — it’s so similar to the one you did last month-”
“-No talking at the table,” Seungmin admonishes.
Changbin rolls his eyes. “Like you weren’t about to hump my thigh just now.” He earns himself a flick on the forehead for that, but Changbin simply chortles it off.
How I still love you
I still love you
“It’s coming along well,” Seungmin replies. He spears the last piece of bacon and adds it to Changbin’s plate. “How’s the song you’re working on? I still can’t believe you’re working with him, you know. He’s wanted all over South Korea right now.”
“Right?” Changbin laughs, his voice laced with disbelief. “And I.N.’s really genuine and everything. Talented, hardworking, and I know for sure that I’ll be well credited for my work. I can’t believe he’s younger than me, too.”
Seungmin grins. “I knew you’d make it big,” he teases, half-jokingly.
A burst of love comes rushing to his chest, and Changbin acknowledges it; he cups his hand, stubby fingers and all, over Seungmin’s own hand, slender fingers and smooth palm and all.
Surprised, Seungmin blinks several times at Changbin. “It’s seven in the morning, hyung.”
“There’s no time like the present.”
Between them, the song continues to croon sweetly in their ears.
But sometimes you have to go
And trade your heart for bones
To know that you need to come back home.
The sunlight warms the side of Seungmin’s face, but the smile he wears is what makes Changbin’s blood run hot, surging through his veins and pacing his heart to pound hard against his ribs. “Love you too, hyung.”
The sudden ringing of Changbin’s cell phone blares out of the blue. Stunned, Changbin frowns and retrieves the device from where it’s sitting in the centre of the island. “It’s Jisung,” he mumbles, confused. He swipes across the screen, taps on the speakerphone and lets Jisung’s voice crackle and boom.
“Hyung, hyung, fuck. You won’t believe just what happened,” Jisung gasps. He sounds out of breath, panicked and scared. “Actually, no — even I can’t believe what just happened. I know this is going to sound absurd; fuck, I don’t even know what to think-”
“-Slow down, Jisung-ah,” Changbin hisses. He glances up to meet Seungmin’s widened eyes, before glimpsing back down at the screen. “Talk slow, okay? I’ll try to believe you.”
“Okay.” A shuddery breath crackles through the speakers. “I think I’m reliving the same day over and over again.”
Changbin feels his breath hitch in his throat. “What?”
“I keep reliving the same day, you know? From the moment I wake up, to the moment I sleep. It’s like living through a recurrence of yesterdays: I wake up, I go to work, I go to a party with Chan-hyung, and I kiss- Whatever, fuck, I know I sound crazy right now, but hyung — do you believe me?”
Life is full of possibilities. Every possibility holds an uncertainty, an unpredictability. Changbin knows that best. When he turns to face Seungmin with a smile on his face, he reaches his hand out and wiggles his pinky finger. Seungmin curls his own pinky finger around his boyfriend’s, and nods.
He mouths the words, Lead the way, hyung and Changbin’s heart swells full.
Both of them know now, more than ever, what it means to live every day as unpredictably as every yesterday ago.
“Jisung,” Changbin grins. “I do.”