Maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder, but lonelier, too. And they've been telling each other, right from the beginning - five minus one equals zero.
Written for the Totally Awesome 2009 June Kpop Remix. This is a remix of pressclose's fic, Parliament. For you, Jennifer-Trang. ♥ And thank you procreational for the title! :3
i. Six years, three months and twenty-two days. If there was a beginning to Dong Bang Shin Ki, it might have been on that first day, timid glances and shy smiles giving way to singing and tired mornings spent together, days turning into weeks slowly but naturally, until Changmin could hardly remember a time before they, together, existed. It's been unsaid, right from the beginning: Dong Bang Shin Ki equals Yunho Jaejoong Changmin Junsu Yoochun. Dong Bang Shin Ki equals one.
ii. Yunho's leaving in the morning.
He's not the first to leave, actually - the first was Jaejoong, off to travel the world with his careless smile and natural wanderlust. It should have been fine because it's not like he was the one that held the group together, but the thing is that even though that's never been the responsibility of a single entity, it's more like they're held together just because they are together. Because they complete one another, in the same way that Jaejoong and Yoochun complete each other, the soulmate kind of way. Changmin's not sure if it makes sense because it's not entirely logical, having four other people who your life is strange without, but that's how he thinks it might be.
Yunho leaving shouldn't change anything, especially because Jaejoong left first and things have been fine, really, it's just that - it's just that it feels a little strange. Changmin's gotten better at dealing with only phone calls and postcards from Jaejoong, of course, because they all grow used to it with time. There are the obligatory promises of return, and presents. Changmin receives cassette tapes in the mail sometimes with Jaejoong's voice recorded onto them, slightly static-y with the sound of the ocean or the subway or wherever he is now, and Changmin has grown used to playing them over and over again, nostalgia weighing him down as he listens, ignoring the thought that he's just being a kid. With them, he thinks that he's allowed to.
iii. The truth is, Changmin thinks - the truth is, Yunho leaving is going to change everything, even if it shouldn't. On Friday nights, Changmin will still be inviting the others over to his tiny flat for movies and video games. Yoochun will cling to his arm like a girl if they watch Titanic and probably imitate Kate Winslet in the kitchen later, regardless of how much Changmin teases him. Changmin and Junsu will have a very intense match playing a DragonBall Z video game which Junsu will have stolen from his brother recently, and Yoochun will sit at the side, watching them in between the texting to Jaejoong, a lazy smile curling at his lips. Changmin will have burnt dinner and set off the sprinklers, and Yunho would have yelled, and laughed when they all started laughing, and pretended that he wasn't working the next day when he stayed up late with them, watching Junsu and Yoochun fall asleep on the couch while he and Changmin played Scrabble and talked about nothing, about everything. Yunho would have, Changmin thinks, his stomach curling painfully. If he had stayed.
iv. At six fifty-five a.m. exactly, Yunho knocks on Changmin's door, very quietly. Changmin is still awake, has been all night, staring at the wall or the ceiling or the other wall, depending on which way he turned in his bed. Right now he is staring at his digital clock, watching the seconds turn slowly into minutes, and when he hears the knocking, he closes his eyes instinctively, like he's been up all night reading in bed but has to pretend he hasn't been. The neon red has burned onto his retinas and the sound of the knocking registers in his mind properly: the familiar, quick rapping on the wood, three times before pausing. Repeat. Part of Changmin had expected this, but the other part had thought about seeing Yunho for the last time and been unable to imagine what it would be like. It would be easier to think that the last time had already passed when Changmin had last seen him. Then he wouldn't have to feel that sensation again, his heart twisting under his ribs, wondering how many minutes it would be until Yunho left.
When Changmin opens the door, it is cloudy outside but oddly bright, and Changmin has to squint to see the bare curve of Yunho's lips. He looks like he hasn't slept either. Changmin invites him in, and everything feels surreal for some reason, like it isn't actually happening. Yunho goes to the kitchen and starts the coffee, and Changmin follows him automatically, sitting at the kitchen table, watching the line of his shoulders and his neck and trying to memorize them almost unconsciously but not quite. Yunho works silently and at last sets the mugs on the table. He takes a seat opposite Changmin. Neither of them drinks.
"How are you, Changmin?" Yunho's voice is light, but small talk has never been for them. Silence would be better than this because between them it's always been the comfortable sort, the kind where you've been with the person like this so many times that it feels like it's been a million times, or like the silence is a book that you might love. A worn book with pages turned over and over again, the one you know by heart and the one you will always come back to.
"I'm good," Changmin says, tired all of a sudden. His eyes drift to the clock, watching time pass slowly. Yunho seems to be uncomfortable.
"I'm leaving today," he blurts out, like Changmin doesn't already know, like it isn't what this entire thing is about.
The tired feeling in Changmin gives way to a strange, coarse anger, and when he speaks, his voice is sharp. "I know." He wants to say something else; words harsh enough to hurt Yunho, maybe make him never come back because this is painful enough as it is. Yunho reaches for Changmin's hand on the table, almost hesitantly. His eyes are understanding, like they always are, and when his fingers close over Changmin's they are achingly familiar. Changmin's chest hurts.
"Well, I just," Yunho says, very quiet again, "I just wanted to see you before I left. And I wanted to - to thank you." His eyes meet Changmin's and Changmin tries to ignore that mess of feeling, to focus on what Yunho is saying. "For. For being a part of Dong Bang Shin Ki. For being with us. With me."
Changmin doesn't say anything. Yunho stands up, moving to the door of the kitchen hesitantly, then gradually entering the hallway. Changmin's movements are mechanical as he begins walking behind Yunho to the door, trying to think of something to say, something to do. Yunho, he wants to say at last, irrationally, just to hear his name again, to make him turn. Yunho.
v. There are three hundred and sixty-five days, five hours, and forty-eight minutes in a year, give or take a few seconds. The majority of the past six years have been spent as being a part of Dong Bang Shin Ki. All those minutes, all those days, spent stealing Jaejoong's shampoo and teasing Junsu and hearing Yoochun's late-night piano and watching Yunho. Changmin is pretty sure that there was a time before this, but he can barely remember it and he doesn't really try to.
All that time together, and now you're leaving, Changmin thinks, and then tries to stop thinking about it. Just one second - it would only take a second to say what he wants to say. Don't go. "Hyung," he manages, voice sounding shockingly normal to his own ears. Yunho looks back, a strange, weary look in his eyes. Expectant. Changmin swallows and opens his mouth. Stay. "Be safe."
Yunho smiles at him, his eyes crinkling slightly, warm and safe and still himself. Nothing should change because they're Dong Bang Shin Ki, Rising Gods of the East forever, but the fact of the matter is that everything is changing. He thinks that he should just let Yunho go because maybe that's the right thing to do - Yunho will go home again and maybe he'll find his own life again, because as much as he loves dancing and as much as he loves being here, there has always been a strange sort of ache in the part of him that thinks about his family sometimes. It's in all of them, really, but maybe it's in Yunho the most because he loves with every part of himself, giving himself to others like he knows they'll keep him safe. Changmin thinks about Yunho's earnestness, his young, toothy smile. The days he spent with them in foreign countries trying to make each seem like home. His beautiful eyes, his warm hands, and the way he'd hold Changmin's own on the ride back home from recording sometimes when it was late at night; simply, like it was just the way things should be. And the truth is that Changmin's always been just like a kid, selfish, and he wants to tell Yunho to stop even if it might be better for him to go, because Changmin doesn't think that it's better for him if Yunho leaves.
Selfish selfish selfish. Just one second, Changmin tells himself again, still, even if it's selfish, even if he's just being a kid like this. It'll only take one second. Stop him. He's trying to force words past that feeling in his throat, the one that makes it seem almost as though there's a weight pressing down on his neck, gripping it with thick, liquid fingers, holding him back.
Yunho lingers, or maybe time just slows down for Changmin as he watches him reach for the door. The second lengthens, stretches out, heavy on the air and on Changmin's lungs. Yunho smiles, just barely, and moves. The latch of the door clicks shut behind him.
Changmin sits down heavily on the floor and stares at nothing. He feels drained, his heart beating dully in his chest. When Changmin finally hears the revving of Yunho's car and at last the sound of him driving away, he is very still. Then he closes his eyes and opens his mouth. "Stay, Yunho." The words are a useless murmur. Stay, stay, stay. Suddenly he feels furious at Yunho, at himself, at everything. He wants to shout, scream, cry, even though it's young and petulant and ridiculous. And it won't even change anything, because it's too late.