"My father physically abuses my family."
Through the haze of his sight and the drifting fog of thought questioning just how pathetic his voice sounded as he uttered a secret he'd kept lodged in his throat for years, Jun could see the exact moment the confession reached Soohyun's ears and sullied whatever remaining image he had of Jun in his head.
The whites of his eyes increased, a tenseness was born in his shoulders keeping them taut, and Jun could have almost laughed at how much he'd made a mess of everything. And for what? To partially lift some of the weight from his chest? To have someone gaze upon his raw, horrid self and force them to abandon him? To have someone hear his plea for help and test whether they'd care? If anyone would care?
'Please don't say no. If you do, I'll kill myself.'
He hurried to shed the blurred recollection that had managed to lodge itself into his then inebriated mind and occassionally rear its head in the late hours of the night, when he was alone and scared and wondering.
Soohyun seemed to regret setting alight a fire much bigger than he'd mentally prepared for, but Jun kept talking regardless － talking as tears mutedly dripped down his reddening cheeks so often rendered sore by the salt that tarnished them.
He wasn't sure how it happened － he never really was, his mind had a will of its own as it'd be triggered, forcibly flashing suppressed memories before his eyelids, in such a way that he could only see them clearer when he instinctively squeezed them shut － but it was happening again and he was terrified and ashamed, desperately longing to scamper away and cower in his room where Soohyun couldn't see him shatter, the realisation of it being embarrassing finally striking him.
Jun scarcely picked up on the sharp sound of a chair screeching against the floor, the frantic calls of his name as he clutched at his own chest and gasped, mouth gaping and eyelids fluttering like the wings of an injured bird desperate to fly. He couldn't be sure what was happening. A part of his mind was busy resurfacing memories of abuse and nights in pain, and another, a rapidly dwindling part, was berating him, yelling at him to calm down because Soohyun was watching and nobody had ever seen him in such a state, no one ever should. No one ever should have.
A panic brewed within him but when he made to stand and run to his room, to anywhere but there, his legs gave way with no second for him to catch himself, his weight crashing to the floor onto his side and his right forearm.
The sudden pain only served to push his head deeper under water, all consciousness of where he was and who was with him dissipating to leave him regressing into his natural state of self defense, shrunken in on himself and balled up beneath his abuser.
Crying, crying, like a bratty child. It was something his mother hated: how childish and emotional he could be.
"I － I － Sorry, I'm － I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I －" The syllables left him in strangled huffs that did nothing but worsen the dizziness in his head and the burn in his cramping muscles that lacked oxygen. His lips felt to be shrivelling from the quickness of his breathing, his nostrils clogging and stinging, an ache spreading throughout his limbs. He expected a kick, a jeer at him being useless, and so he automatically shirked backwards as a shadow loomed over him, unable to perceive its tentative nature.
"Stop, I'm so-sorry!"
The blond was cupping his ears then, pulling at them as if wanting to rip them from his skull, shaking his head in refusal, and then he felt it, through the festering pain in his chest and brash dryness of his throat: a hand.
It was perhaps the first touch － the only touch of a man － that didn't make him shudder or turn his blood cold. The skin of Soohyun's fingertips was coarse from use and relentless work yet its grazing against Jun's own silken flesh set a trail of fire along the latter's damp neck.
"Yeojun, it's － it's me. It's Soohyun. Breathe. You're safe."
It was like swimming to the surface after having sunken to the seabed, with no air left in your lungs and no force in your dying limbs, but Jun could see it, the end, and he dragged himself towards it, tried to blink his eyes open and meet those of Soohyun; Soohyun, who was shifting on the floor and folding his legs, only to carefully tug Jun into his lap, cradling the blond into his chest with such a desire to protect that it made Jun want to sob harder.
"I've got you Jun, I've got you."
He was whispering, murmuring so softly into Jun's hair that the blond could barely feel the heat of his breath against his scalp and the side of his face, but it was there and it was grounding, just like the palm rubbing his waist and the fingers gently combing back the golden strands off his gleaming forehead.
"Close your mouth and breathe through your nose, slow and steady. You're fine."
Jun tried to do as told but the struggle as he did made him fret more. His fingers warped the material of Soohyun's shirt around them as he clutched onto the older like a survivor lost at sea would to a buoy in a raging storm: holding onto him as though he were all that could keep him afloat.
A hand larger than his own encased one of his, firmly and securely, its thumb massaging small circles over his knuckles.
"Hey, Yeojun, focus on me. Try breathe. Don't panic."
Jun allowed his lips to momentarily curl in the slightest manner; he would have teased Soohyun about how panicked he himself was sounding at that moment, but he couldn't － presumably for the best, because he wouldn't be able to handle the other looking upon him with even the most minimal amount of disdain in his state.
"Close your mouth and breathe with me, okay?" Soohyun went on, unaware of Jun's thought process, "Nod if you got it."
Jun jostled his head. Soohyun gave a mild but encouraging upturn of his lips, one the smaller couldn't see － presumably for the best, because Soohyun wouldn't be able to handle Jun possibly seeing the sheer fear and concern and profound affection bared naked in the irises of his eyes.
"That's great, you're doing great," He wasn't, not yet, but Soohyun thought it best to encourage the boy who so often reminded him of a puppy. Probably one of those smaller, annoying breeds, the type to bark often, to always demand attention and to be played with; despite their owners complaining about such behaviour, he was sure they loved them. Yes, Jun was an amicable, annoying puppy, excitable and needy, until he wasn't. Soohyun had to remind himself of that fact.
It was hard to wipe his conception of Jun clean from his mind and morph everything around the new information he was given and what he was witnessing, but it was unavoidable and whilst Soohyun had liked to believe he had pinned Jun as a person down to the T right from when they'd met, he'd always had the lingering sensation that Jun was actually unfathomable, unreachable, fake.
Just how much of the person who had managed to create a crack large enough to slip in through the walls he'd built around himself had been a lie?
His voice continued with uttering words of affirmation and comfort despite the whirlwind wreaking havoc within his skull. His palm cupped the side of the blond's face nestled into the crook of his neck, occassionally wiping away stray tears, and the other lightly pat at Jun's side. Jun gradually and painstakingly came down from the height of his attack, even if the tremor in his hands and stammer to his words wouldn't leave him for another hour yet to come.
With his mind refocusing and his body becoming aware of the situation it was in, Jun near-instantaneously grew flustered, the shame of having had such a grave breakdown before the eyes of someone he revered as strong and inspirational momentarily gave way to the tickling sensation in his belly, the flickering heat in his ears and cheeks for being held such a way by Soohyun.
Had he been less worn out, perhaps he'd have connected some dots and put together the remaining bits of the puzzle he'd been working on, but he was far too drained and the feeling of being embraced, protected, for the first time in literal years had him thinking of nothing else than surrounding himself further with it.
Jun nuzzled his cheek into Soohyun's palm, eased his grip on the other's shirt to instead wrap his arms around his torso and latch on to the abruptly stoic male in a non-verbal proclamation of never letting go. Soohyun wanted to tell him he wouldn't let him go either, but the time wasn't right and things were hazy. Instead he tried to relax into the affection Jun was returning and strengthen his hold around him.
They'd been in silence until then, but it only truly hit around that time, when their minds settled and all they felt was each other. Jun could hear Soohyun's marginally unusually fast heartbeat and Soohyun could hear Jun's breathing that still gave signs of hyperventilation.
"Are . . . Are you okay?"
Soohyun wasn't good with these types of things; emotions, friendship, the budding feelings of what came beyond such a relationship. It was new and hard and now all he could think of was Jun and who he really was, if he'd still love another version of him.
It was meek but brimming with gratitude and something Soohyun couldn't quite discern and yes, Soohyun thought, he would love any version of Jun. He would help and give comfort to the boy in his arms even if he felt as though he didn't deserve to have someone as complex as the latter to himself.
They let time pass for another while, until Soohyun could feel his spine begin to hurt and his legs grow numb － though he showed no signs of either － and Jun began to squirm in his lap for a better position, both too hot and too reluctant to leave said heat.
Maybe Soohyun could have taken the opportunity to ask Jun more about his story, unravel him bit by bit, enveil his true self and cherish even that jagged treasure; but he knew that Jun would tell him when he was ready and urging the boy to talk only encouraged such reactions.
"It's late," He said instead, quiet, afraid to startle the other who was beginning to doze off in his arms, "I'll take you to bed."
Jun merely hummed, drowsy and finally at ease, content even.
It was an ordeal for Soohyun to stand whilst carrying Jun, but when the blond would move to set himself on his own feet Soohyun would squeeze him deeper into his chest, tentatively giving him a peripheral look he knew conveyed his request for the smaller to stay still.
Jun listened, though he wrapped his arms around the other's neck so as to help in anyway he could. Soohyun didn't seem to mind and the tickling of his puffs of breath made Jun giggle against his skin.
The smile that adorned his face was then uncontrollable even if droopy from tiredness, and Soohyun found that he could begin to tell the differences between Jun's genuine happiness and feigned one, his mind skimming through every time he'd seen the popular student beam at someone and himself, categorizing them into the two groups.
"Hyun, you can put me down now."
Jun's voice sounded small, though somewhat amused, and it was then Soohyun realised with reddening skin that he'd been standing at the side of Jun's rustled bed, still carrying the blond and merely staring down at him.
He cleared his throat, allowed his sight to hop about the room before settling on a clear spot on the mattress.
If Jun heard the shyness in his voice and noted the gingerly fashion in which Soohyun set him down on the bed, he had the mercy to not pass any comments and simply look up at the taller with a dopey grin, hair spiralling around his head like rolling clouds of gold against the faint blue of the pillowcase he sank into.
Soohyun dared to hold his gaze for a moment, an action that had Jun's smile faltering and something flickering across his eyes, and then Soohyun was walking to the bottom of the bed, reaching towards the blond's feet. Jun would have stopped him, but Soohyun's fingers were already tugging at the socks' material to bunch them up and toss them to the hamper for the next day and the words died on his tongue as he watched the scene unfold.
Again, their gazes locked, this time across the length of the bed, and Jun couldn't tell if it were due to the soft glow of his bedside lamp or the cool white from the moon's shine pouring in through the nearby window, but Soohyun had an air of a dream about him, delicate and beautiful and Jun almost hesitated to blink in fear he'd disappear.
"I'll be back in a second," Soohyun warned, again in that breathy tone, careful, and Jun hummed belatedly, allowing his gaze to follow the male's back across the room and into his bathroom.
True to his word, Soohyun was beside him in under a minute, a small face cloth in hand that was sodden wet.
Jun must've been more expressive than he thought because Soohyun appeared momentarily bashful, evading his eyes to look at his own fingers work the cloth into a neat rectangle.
"It's to wipe your face off before you sleep," He explained, and suddenly Jun realised that he must have looked grossly disheveled and swollen, but Soohyun didn't, and never once did seem to be, concerned about his appearance in itself at all. Instead, Soohyun was looking upon him in a way that made Jun shuffle nervously, and not with fear.
It was when Soohyun carefully dropped onto his knees on the floor abreast him, with his elbows pressing onto the mattress that dipped under their pressure, and his hands extending towards Jun's face to tenderly hold him still as he dabbed at his undereyes and cheeks, that Jun's heart sputtered like a broken car engine. He held his breath behind his teeth as he locked eyes with Soohyun, faces so close that their exhales mingled before washing over each of them at a steady rhythm.
"You're even more handsome when you don't frown, sunbae."
The wetness on his forehead settled and Jun briefly worried he'd crossed a boundary he shouldn't have. He'd typically be outspoken and teasing, but this was different and with such a weight to the air around them, he couldn't be sure if it were allowed.
"You think I'm handsome?"
It was delayed and stiff, the hand then resuming its careful movements, but Jun didn't move on, couldn't, because instead he found himself roaming his sight over every dip and hill of Soohyun's face, the faint lines that gave depth to his eyes and his lips that remained faintly parted.
He didn't reply.
Perhaps it was because he was relishing in being cared for, relishing in being able to see Soohyun from up close and feel as though there were nothing seperating them, but when Soohyun folded the towel up and proceeded to stand, he panicked.
"Where are you going?"
On instinct his hand had shot out to clasp Soohyun's wrist before he could leave, bringing the other to tense as his features allowed him to be seen as dumbfounded by the desperate touch that warmed him through the cuff of his shirt's sleeve.
In delay he replied, "I'm going to sleep in －"
The grip on him fastened at his words.
"Here," Jun all but pleaded, tone suddenly taking on the coat of need, "Stay here. Please."
Soohyun couldn't bring himself to put up a fight, not when Jun was looking at him like that.
"Okay," He conceded, but just as he made to reach over the blond and grab a pillow, Jun interrupted him again.
"I don't mean on the floor, sunbae."
The words hung between them for a good few seconds, and whilst Soohyun fondly noted how akin to cherries Jun's ears had become, he could feel his own do the same.
"The bed's big enough for both of us," Jun persisted, "I promise I won't bother you."
Again, Soohyun bit back his response to replace it with a nod.
Hyperaware of Jun's eyes on his back, he unbuttoned his shirt and slid it off his shoulders to sleep in the white cotton one beneath it. He was moving slowly, as if night time would be able to pass before he'd get the chance to sleep and he would no longer have to hear his heart thundering in his ears, but eventually he was done and there was nothing left for him to do but face the bed upon which Jun seemingly refused to sleep until he saw Soohyun lay down beside him.
The blond gave a timid smile, unsure but eager, and Soohyun steeled himself to return one of his own without breaking eye contact.
"Come on in," Jun then playfully welcomed, thumping the free half of the bed as he flipped over onto his side to face Soohyun.
Pushing through his nerves, Soohyun pulled back an edge of the covers enough to slip under them and wormed about on the mattress until comfortably on his side, boldly in direction of Jun.
It had gone quiet again, them simply looking at one another, pensive, until Soohyun reached out to gently pull the covers over Jun's shoulder, tucking him in better as if afraid he'd get cold. It made Jun's stomach flip on automatic. He hummed in gratitude.
And then it was a handful of minutes before they inched closer to each other to the point that Jun burrowed into Soohyun's chest with an arm and leg coiled around the latter, and Soohyun was gently petting his hair. His hand only stilled when he dozed off, and he only dozed off when Jun already had, to make sure he was truly alright, because Soohyun had decided that it didn't matter if things weren't clear right that instant; Yeojun was Yeojun, and as long as that was proven to be correct, Soohyun would do anything in his power to help the boy who had unknowingly helped him.