Summary: Two years after EXO disbands, Yixing returns to Seoul to attend Joonmyun’s wedding. Future!fic.
Incheon International greets Yixing like an estranged friend, the roar of engines muted beyond the glass walls of the terminal as the wheels of his carry-on suitcase make small clicking sounds behind him. There are no fans barricaded behind tape barriers this time, no camera lenses or deafening screams for him to ignore. Nevertheless, a familiar feeling of restlessness always resurfaces every time he returns to Korea, the place that could have been home.
The taxi ride to the hotel is quiet, and Yixing is surprised to find a billboard of Chanyeol's new drama near his destination. Yixing spots the faint scar above Chanyeol's eye -- the result of an accident whilst filming for their fifth MV. Yixing still remembers the way Seunghwan-hyung had exploded as Chanyeol insisted, with one hand pressed to his face, that everything was okay. Joonmyun had hissed at him to be quiet until Sehun produced a Pororo bandaid.
Those are the small, insignificant details Yixing can recall when he can't even remember his plans for the week or Zitao's birthday.
Yixing rummages through his bag on the elevator ride to the third floor. The hallways smell of fresh laundry and cherrywood, nothing like his previous memories of Korea. Yixing feels unbalanced by this as he unlocks the door. He recalls his last flight from Seoul -- the sound of rain pounding on his windowsills, the distinct scent of the lavender air freshener Jongdae sneaked into his bag, and rushing back for a misplaced passport. Yixing was never good at keep tracking of his paperwork. That was always Wu Fan's job.
Joonmyun's invitation is sticking out of his wallet. Yixing forgot about the affair altogether until Zitao reminded him last month as they grabbed lunch in Guangzhou. The plane ticket was a last minute purchase, but Yixing felt that almost a decade spent training and performing in the same band mandated his appearance at Joonmyun's wedding.
The air in Seoul is unexpectedly welcoming when Yixing opens a window. He fishes out his temporary phone and turns it on, watching the screen dance into life. His manager had arranged for the phone, reminding him to behave. As if Yixing doesn’t understand etiquette or hasn’t spent the best years of his life calling Seoul his second home.
The contact list is blank, but Yixing has no one but himself to blame for breaking his old phone at the bottom of his suitcase last November. Zitao simply laughed at him before scribbling out a few important numbers on the back of a receipt. Now, Yixing stares lamely at the list of familiar names and wonders who to call first.
Yixing is on his second drink when Minseok slides into the space next to him, laughing when Yixing mumbles "thank God, someone I know." They survey the hall, watching the odd assortment of family friends mingle with faces from the industry. Jongin grins upon spotting them, but is unwillingly pulled into conversation with some SM representatives.
"When did you get in?" Minseok asks, his voice warm and familiar. They spend the next few minutes chatting about the venue for the rehearsal dinner, Minseok chuckling when Yixing confesses to confusing his taxi driver by misreading the location on his invitation.
Joonmyun's sweetheart is a charming, American raised girl who manages regional branches of a boutique. She exudes an air of confidence and certainty while moving around the room. It's hard, however, to find fault in her when she makes Joonmyun so, so happy. Or stupidly infatuated. Minseok tells him this much as they watch Joonmyun greet guests at the door. "Have you seen Lu Han?"
Yixing shrugs. Early that week, Lu Han had mentioned that his flight might be delayed as Yixing watched Lu Han fix his hair in the webcam screen. They had been interrupted when Lu Han's manager flew into the room, rambling about being late. She was always flustered, threatening to quit once a month unless Lu Han started respecting her authority. Lu Han claimed it was part of her charm.
Lu Han is promoting his new single in the mainland, and it's the first time their promotion schedules haven't clashed.
After the last stop on their farewell concert tour, Yixing boarded an impromptu flight to pursue his newfound ambition of traveling through China like a normal tourist. He wandered through the eastern cities, scribbling lyrics onto room service napkins as he sat on the windowsills of hotels at night, strumming his guitar. Yixing wrote about homesickness and disillusionment. That was the beauty of songwriting, he thought. Singing about his insecurities was like a validation of some sort.
He showed up on his parent's doorstep a month later with his guitar and a notebook of songs, old and new. Yixing was probably too ambitious, fresh out of the biggest disbandment in SM Entertainment history. Yet he knew everyone was moving on with their lives, and all he had was his workaholic self and an insatiable need to keep pushing.
"It's good. Really Good," Lu Han said over the phone months later, after Yixing sent him a studio recording of his title track. When Yixing explained that his new record label aimed for a May release, Lu Han simply laughed and replied "I guess we'll be competing for album sales."
But Lu Han was wrong. Their music varied drastically in genre and audience, despite the similar messages in Lu Han's ballads and Yixing's acoustic tracks. Yixing heard all of this as countless hosts and radio personnel dissected their positions on the charts in those initial months. They were no longer members of EXO. The thought was terrifying yet exhilarating.
Baekhyun joins them at a table when the crowd starts settling down. Sehun looks bored from across the room as he listens to Joonmyun's mother. Next to Sehun, Jongin simply looks sleepy. Yixing wants to ask Jongin about his new choreography gig with the Canadian artist, but is distracted when he spots Chanyeol chatting a few tables away. Chanyeol waves and Yixing smiles back.
There's a small commotion at the door, causing the bride's female cousins to burst into whispers. Yixing glances at the entrance and sees Lu Han strolling in fashionably late with a nonplussed Wu Fan by his side. They both congratulate Joonmyun, and Yixing quickly looks away when Joonmyun gestures towards them. There is only one free seat at their table, next to Yixing.
Lu Han pushes Wu Fan towards their direction and joins Sehun across the room. Yixing swears under his breath.
Wu Fan gives him an unreadable smile upon sitting down, engaging the others in small talk. They listen to Joonmyun thank the guests, Yixing staring intently past Wu Fan's head as the parents speak. He hurries towards the bathroom when food appears and returns to find the atmosphere friendly, more relaxed. Yixing stops by Lu Han, but Lu Han just shoos him away. "I see you enough. Let me enjoy my reunion and Sehun-ah and Jonginnie."
Sehun chortles, but Jongin just shoots them a deadpan look.
"Are you avoiding me?" Wu Fan asks, an inflection of amusement in his voice, when Yixing returns. His hair is shorter now, dark locks framing his inscrutable face. It reminds Yixing too much of those predebut years -- training tirelessly, losing sight of his dream, being 20 and devastatingly in love with Wu Fan.
Yixing takes a deep breath. "How's your movie coming along?"
"We've wrapped up post production editing. The trailers will come out soon." Wu Fan looks away when Baekhyun asks about the movie, Wu Fan's second feature length film.
Wu Fan had been the first to announce his plans when management called them into the CEO’s office that August afternoon. They’d all been contemplating the idea of leaving and the prospects of not renewing their contacts, but Wu Fan had decided first. Without duizhang, there was little room for argument. Yixing had understood it too: quitting while they were still ahead, before becoming too stale for the industry. They’d all looked to Wu Fan for direction, but Wu Fan had looked away first.
Yixing is speaking to a previous stylists when Wu Fan finds him an hour later, excusing himself as he steals Yixing. He hands Yixing a glass of wine. "Are you staying nearby?"
"No," Yixing says, dropping the glass to his side. "I'm fifteen minutes away."
Wu Fan hums in response, staring at his glass as if it contains the meaning of life. Yixing notes that he's still annoyingly cryptic. "That's far. I have a hotel room down the street. Would you like to come by later and talk?"
Yixing considers this. "If you really want me to."
"I want." Wu Fan gives him a strained smile, tucking a room key into Yixing's hand as if he expected the answer beforehand. "But for now, I need to speak to Director Kim and Jung Sunbae."
Yixing watches him stride away with his impossibly long legs. He closes his eyes, trying to sort his mind. The sight is oddly reminiscent of the night before Wu Fan's flight to China, the prospect of an exclusive CCTV contract making Wu Fan drop all pretense of ever staying. Wu fan had only packed one bag, opting to line the rest of his possessions in trash bags along the walls. They had shared a six pack while Wu Fan threw old Korean books in the trash, and Yixing listened as Wu Fan gave him last minute advice: don't perm your hair again, don't say stupid things on national television, and don't enable Zitao.
It should have been a sign.
Yixing had been watching the ceiling fan when Wu Fan had added "and stop looking at me like that, please." Yixing had stared at him. He’d always thought that Wu Fan knew, had to know. The confirmation had only made him feel more inadequate. He remembers the desire to say something, as if admitting it aloud would bring his desires into fruition.
"Don't," Wu Fan had added, squeezing Yixing's hand. "You don't know what you're asking for, to be-" The following pause, loaded with possibilities, had been the worst part. "Please give up on me."
He’d tried to argue, but fell silent. In the end, there had been nothing purposeful to say.
For years, they tread the line between friendship and something else so carefully that Yixing could not distinguish between the two. The uncertainty, the possibility, propelled him forward. But that was a moot point. It was unfair to not have the reality of his feelings acknowledged, unfair that Wu Fan could never see Yixing in the way that Yixing saw him.
When Yixing gets to the hotel room, he finds Wu Fan standing on the balcony, staring out. Wu Fan pockets his phone when Yixing slides the glass door shut behind him and joins Wu Fan by the railing. "Business call?"
"I have another interview lined up on Monday," Wu Fan replies, shaking bangs out of his eyes. "I'm too old for this."
"Ah, the ripe age of twenty-nine. I know it well."
Yixing's last birthday was a somber affair. Even the cake Tiantian had baked didn’t stop him from blurting, "We should break up." She simply whispered a small "Oh" and sat in silence before smiling slowly, asking if he'd like to cut his cake regardless. Her reaction was more devastating than any tantrum Yixing had expected.
"My mother bought your album," Wu Fan says after some thought, staring out at the skyline. "She told me to listen to it."
Both Lu Han and Jongdae had sent Yixing copies of their albums pre-release. Even Baekhyun had mailed a first edition pack of his debut duet with Kyungsoo to Yixing's company. "What are you trying to say?" Yixing asks finally.
Wu Fan runs a hand through his bangs. "Why is it always so hard with you?"
"It's my job to make your life difficult, remember?" Yixing replies almost instinctively. The surprising ease of the response causes him to meet Wu Fan's eye, gauging the other man's reaction.
After a minute or so, Wu Fan hands Yixing an envelope.
"Another invitation? Did you get engaged too while no one was looking?" However, Yixing pauses in pulling out the card, looking up for confirmation. "You want me to attend your movie premiere?"
Wu Fan glances down at the invitation in Yixing's hands. "My publicist thinks it's a good idea. She wants more of my friends to attend."
"Publicity. Right." Yixing smiles wryly. "You know we haven't spoken in two years."
"We're speaking now."
"Yes, because Joonmyun is getting married."
"There's no need for animosity elsewhere, either."
"Sure..." Yixing runs his hand along the edge of the envelope. "Is that why you ran away after spotting me backstage at BTV's award ceremony?"
Wu Fan stiffens. "I was giving you space. In case you wanted to keep your distance."
"No, you wanted to keep your distance. I wanted to keep being your friend."
Wu Fan stares at him as if seeing Yixing for the first time. "Well, do you still want to be friends?"
Yixing swallows. "We were friends for more than a decade before you decided that I needed space."
"Then come to my premiere," Wu Fan replies with finality. "Please."
"I'll think about it. Can I go now?" When Wu Fan nods, Yixing heads towards the door, pausing only when his name is called. He has no reason to stop, but Yixing turns around anyway.
"It was nice seeing you again," Wu Fan says after some deliberation.
"You're still so cheesy." Yixing gives him a small smile and leaves before Wu Fan can reply.
Yixing's smile drops in the elevator, where he contemplates trashing the invitation.
On the day of the wedding, Yixing bumps into Chanyeol at the venue entrance. Chanyeol looks up from his watch and smiles with an easy confidence. "We're early!"
Yixing glances at the clock. "Not that early."
“I don't spot a lot of familiar faces." Chanyeol nods towards the row of carefully arranged seats, white against the pale sunflower colored walls.
"Maybe everyone else is late." They discuss the security around the place, Yixing suddenly remembering the crowd of professional photographers and fans alike gathered outside of the building. He listens to Chanyeol talk about the attractive wedding planner, stopping when a couple approaching them.
"Kim Jongdae. When did you plan on introducing me to your lovely lady friend?" Chanyeol asks when Jongdae approaches with an arm around his date's waist.
"Please stop, Chanyeol-ah," says their faithful ex-translator. Yixing notices that she still smells of daisies, her hair tucked behind her ears. They chat a little about her current teaching post until Minseok appears around the corner.
"Trouble," Minseok says in the same tone he always adopted when Hyunkyun-hyung was in a foul mood.
The woman takes a second to fix Jongdae's tie. "I'll save your seat," she says before waving them off.
They follow Minseok through the side hallway and into a large waiting room, where they find Joonmyun pacing around with a unbuttoned tux. He glances up for a moment, looks disappointed, and then resumes his pacing.
"Sit," Baekhyun says, blocking Joonmyun's path with a chair and pushing him onto it.
Yixing spots Lu Han sitting on the nearby couch, arms resting on his knees. Sehun is making a call by the window. Wu Fan stands next to him, looking harassed. "What's going on?" Yixing asks.
"Kyungsoo's tie isn't the right shade of coral to match the bridesmaid dresses," Joonmyun replies instantly, his words slurred in haste. "I know nothing about ties. Or how this western wedding is supposed to go. I know nothing about marriage. Why did I ever think I could handle this?" He takes a deep breath. "Jongin, tell the guests I've called off the wedding."
Jongin leans against the wall, hands tucked into the pockets of his black pants. "No."
Joonmyun shoots him a pained look. "I can't do this."
"Don't be stupid," Chanyeol interrupts.
"I can't get married," Joonmyun insists, trying to stand up but resuming his seat when Baekhyun glares at him. "I just met this girl."
"You've been dating for years," Kyungsoo points out with an exasperated undertone, although he looks slightly guilty at the offense his tie has caused.
"But we got engaged so fast, and suddenly she wants a dream wedding and a disco ball on the dance floor. I can't take care of her. I couldn't even take care of you guys." Joonmyun peers up, ignoring Jongin's comment of give yourself some credit. "I don't know anything about marriage,” he repeats. “I've never been married before."
Baekhyun laughs a little, now kneading carefully at Joonmyun's shoulders. "Well, neither have we, but I'm sure you'll make a great husband and have a blessed marriage."
Chanyeol continues with "and you'll move into a beautiful home and have adorable children who disrespect you like we do."
"I'm sorry, I thought we were trying to talk him into getting married," Sehun cuts in. "And besides, you were a good leader, hyung."
Joonmyun looks around at Wu Fan. "I've always had help. Hyung always gave me advice."
"So offer us some words of wisdom now," Chanyeol says after a pause, draping one arm around Wu Fan's shoulder. "But choose your words carefully. The fate of Joonmyun's marriage lies in your hands."
Wu Fan considers this for a moment and steps forward, setting one hand on Joonmyun's shoulder. "You never actually needed my help. Just be yourself. You'll know what to do when the time comes. And don't freak out, because nothing will truly go according to plan. Don't overlook the fullness of life just because something is missing."
Joonmyun gives him a weak smile. Regardless, the mood lifts instantly despite Sehun informing them that the nearby tux shop is out of coral ties.
The only thing better than Wu Fan’s impromptu speech is the sudden arrival of Zitao, who bursts into the door apologizing for his lateness. His entrance leads to a whole chorus of "Junmaohao!" that leaves Joonmyun shaking in laughter. Yixing quickly notices that Zitao is wearing a pink tie.
Later, at the reception, Yixing reflects on the practiced ease with which Wu Fan spoke. He loses his train of thought when Kyungsoo begins speaking near the podium, smiling as he recalls the first time he met Joonmyun. The tie he borrowed from Zitao is, indeed, the exact color of the bridesmaids' dresses.
Kyungsoo looks pleased when Joonmyun makes a noise of discontent. The slideshow in the background is displaying a series of embarrassing photos while Chanyeol claps loudly in the vicinity, his happiness bouncing off the walls. Zitao, too, is beaming from their table. Yixing thinks about how far they've come, from Joonmyun wrenching his fingers in nervousness before their Seoul showcase to the way he currently laughs behind his hands.
The speech ends in applause, and Jongin has to push Chanyeol down from his standing ovation. Yixing is still conversing with Zitao when a group of bridesmaids ambush their table, dragging Lu Han towards the dance floor. Joonmyun's teenage sister-in-law is particularly pushy as she extracts Yixing from his seat. She laughs into his ear as Yixing twirls her around, the tulle on the bottom of her skirt fanning out into a pretty shape before she decides to switch dates with other bridesmaids. Yixing grins when another girl appears in front of him, just as the band begins to play something jazzy.
They convince someone to take a group shot on multiple phones. Afterwards, half of the group turns around to start texting. The selcas from Joonmyun's wedding will no doubt emerge from multiple social media sites by the time Yixing gets access to a computer. He straightens up when Lu Han appears next to him. In retrospect, Lu Han was always better at appealing to the masses. He had proven so upon sneaking into Yixing's second fansigning last year, causing a large number of people to swarm the park before either could leave.
Lu Han's phone, however, gets snatched by Wu Fan. "I'll take it," he says, pointing the camera at Yixing and Lu Han. Wu Fan pauses when Hyunkyun-hyung appears, motioning for the phone and for Wu Fan to join the others. Yixing is scooting over when Zitao jumps into the frame, squeezing between Yixing and Wu Fan.
"I was a part of this subgroup too," Jongdae whines while examining the photo. They end the mini photoshoot, however, when the bride demands another dance from Joonmyun. That doesn't stop Lu Han and Zitao from rounding on Jongdae, proclaiming him next to walk up the aisle.
It's been years since they've gathered in the same place, despite the occasional meet ups that continue to wane in numbers. It's one thing for Lu Han to talk his manager into a weekend off in the midst of promotions, but the fact that Jongin has flown in from Canada is no less than a miracle. Not to mention the presence of national heartthrob Park Chanyeol, whose face covers every billboard and magazine Yixing has come across in the last few days.
Yixing, too, is slowly shedding his idol image. In his last round of interviews in Shenzhen, an MC even failed to mention his previous stint in the world of Korean pop. Yixing's days are filled with song writing and traveling, when his label isn't arranging radio appearances and other talk show gigs. Being a soloist is surprisingly less hectic. The biggest surprise had come when Yixing's manager asked if he wanted to reject a few appearances due to the large number of shows and stations that requested his presence.
The bride and groom share one last dance before being driven away in their limo. "So flashy," Minseok comments as the party starts wrapping up. Minseok scribbles his number on the back of a napkin, laughing when Yixing asks him to be featured on his next album. "I've forgotten all the Chinese I've learned."
"Lies. Jongdae still speaks pretty well." Yixing pockets the napkin and glances around the room. Thankfully, he spots the people that matter.
Their goodbyes are hurried. Zitao rushes out to make his return flight to Taiwan to finish shooting his drama, Baekhyun and Kyungsoo are called back to the studio, and even Seunghwan-hyung needs to pick up his kids.
"Kids. It would be a crime for any of us to father a kid." Jongin grimaces as they watch people leave. He turns to face Yixing. "I know you're not dancing anymore, but we're searching for emerging talents. If you have any contacts in China-"
"I'll forward you a list of references," Yixing agrees, ready to head out. He waits under the darkening sky for a cab while the remaining photographers continue to click away.
Wu Fan catches the door of Yixing's cab at the last second, duckling under the roof. "Think about what I said, please." For a second, Yixing thinks Wu Fan is going to get in, but Wu Fan just closes the door after him and watches as Yixing drives away.
Crazy fucker, Yixing thinks, releasing his grip on his slacks. Life is not a Korean drama, he thinks. If that’s the case, then maybe he, too, should stop being so melodramatic.
Upon setting foot in his apartment in Beijing, Yixing knows that someone has visited in his absence. He finds a plate of crepes waiting on the kitchen table. Tiantian has left a note on top of the plastic wrap.
Your mother asked me to check up on you.... You should probably tell them we're no longer seeing each other. The subscript says, I think you should just do whatever makes you happy from now on.
Five years ago, that had meant winning Song of the Year at the Golden Melody Awards, the six of them linking hands in the audience as they watched the host read out winners on stage.
They used to laugh hysterically as filming for their second reality tv show carried into the night. After Lu Han collapsed face-first onto his bed, Yixing would catch the sunrise with Wu Fan. Zitao and Minseok joined in at times, but Wu Fan usually served as his only companion as they wordlessly watched the sun paint the sky red.
Red was the color of their ambition and the official hue for their third single, from Lu Han's scarf to Jongdae's watch to Zitao's shoelaces. Then Yixing had tripped and banged his hand against audio equipment during a recording, causing the crew to search for a first aid kit as Yixing watched his blood stain the floor. Wu Fan had later taken his heavily bandaged hand, carefully bringing it to his face, cool against the burning sensation in Yixing's palm. Those rare moments of gentleness were what he missed the most about Wu Fan.
Yixing celebrates the one year anniversary of his debut album with members of his baidu bar and admins of fan forums. They rent a party room at a local restaurant and surprise him with a laminated version of his nine year old, leopard-print clad self. Yixing laughs so hard that the founder of Waixing brings him water in concern, only to have him grin and ask for the cut-out as a present for his mom.
"Congratulations on going Platinum!" They cheer, showering him with confetti.
He signs stacks of CDs and watches everyone interact like old friends. It's odd, he thinks, for these people to have found camaraderie through him. Yixing performs an acoustic track that was scrapped from the tracklist of his album, smiling when one of the girls asks him to play at her university's music festival. She knocks over her drink when he actually agrees.
"Are you sure that's okay?" Tangtang asks when the staffs of Xingpark huddle in a corner.
Yixing hums, setting his guitar down. "You guys always asked me to take care of myself. So let me take care of you for a change." He nods, setting a hand on the shoulder of his oldest fan as she blinks the tears away rapidly.
Tangtang breaks into a smile when Xingpark brings out the cake. Everyone crowds around Yixing as a waiter takes group photos. They laugh when the waiter comments on Yixing’s many girlfriends.
At the end of the night, Yixing spends ten minutes fighting everyone for the cheque. "No," he says, trying to maneuver the cheque pad away from several determined girls. "I'm not letting you all pay."
"We're not!" They tell him. "The bill has been footed in advance thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor!"
"Was it my mother?" Yixing makes a face, which cause a few girls to burst into giggles.
A few days later, Yixing retells the story to Zitao when he calls to ask if Yixing wants the limited edition MCM belt from the flagship store in Taipei. "Who knows," Zitao replies, sounding distracted. The clinking sound of clothes hangers follows. "It's got to be someone close to you who knows you have unofficial fanmeets with these people. Maybe you have a secret admirer."
"Please, not everything is a trashy romance book." Regardless, Yixing remembers the Li Laoshi novels his mother still collects. Tragically inaccurate portrayals of love, really.
Yixing ends the call when his manager and PR team enter the conference room. They celebrate the sales certification of his album, asking probing but understandable questions about his newer works. It's overwhelming yet gratifying, having something to truly call his own.
Shanghai is hot and rainy in September. Yixing wants to loosen the Armani tie IsSing Garden had given him for his last birthday, but he waits dutifully for the horde of photographers to finish. The red carpet is expectedly chaotic. Yixing gets dragged from one photo op to another, his face carefully crafted into an expression of professionalism when an assistant gathers the ex-EXO members present and arranges them in a line next to Wu Fan.
Thankfully, Wu Fan is whisked off during the showing to sit with the cast. Yixing is pleasantly surprised when a track from Lu Han's newest single plays halfway through the movie. Lu Han just shoots him a grin when Yixing turns to him, mouthing at Yixing to be quiet.
Yixing gets dragged to the after party before he can escape. There are a whole lot of appetizer trays and way too many bottles of champagne, but Yixing plays the role of a responsible public citizen by accepting drinks and making small talk. He narrowly avoids a HunanTV producer who has been trying to get a hosting contract out of Yixing for years.
He straightens up when the female lead, a charming Taiwanese girl, approaches him at the open bar. They chat about the movie, pausing when an event photographer snatches a photo of them in conversation. "Also," she adds. "I heard about your album sales."
Yixing is taken back at first, but thanks her. The conversation is cut short when Wu Fan appears from nowhere, whispering into his costar's ear before she bids them goodbye.
After she leaves, Wu Fan looks at Yixing. It's the first time they've been alone all night. "I didn't think you would come," Wu Fan says.
Yixing gives him a small toast and downs his glass. "Gotta keep you on your toes and bring some excitement to your life."
"By that, you mean stress and agony," Wu Fan corrects, looking meaningfully at him. The clip on his tie matches his watch. His hair is gel free, and Yixing almost misses seeing Wu Fan in his element, without the sequins and heavy cover-up. Even with his dress shirt untucked and sleeves unbuttoned, Wu Fan is the image of class.
"Only because you sleep ten hours a night." Yixing grins, unable to stop himself. There is a momentary pause before Wu Fan gives him a genuine smile, gums baring. It's endearing and unexpected. "I'm staying nearby. Come to my hotel room in two hours?"
"Haven't we done this before?" Yixing raises an eyebrow. "How do you know this party will end by then?"
Wu Fan wheels Yixing around, nodding towards a group of actors. "The line director will get into a public brawl with the stunt coordinator over my costar. That will be the time for you to slip out. If you choose to remain, then I advise you to stay away from the chocolate fountain."
"No," Yixing whispers, staring at Wu Fan.
Wu Fan's smile is indulgent. "Yes. Welcome to the movie business, Zhang Yixing."
After too many close encounters with pushy directors and tipsy celebrities, Yixing leaves the party after bidding goodbye to the few people he recognizes. Wu Fan's hotel is down the street once again, the lobby relatively deserted at this time of the night. Wu Fan seems to have left his stuff in a hurry, Yixing notes as he scans the room. He spots a pile of paper on the dresser -- brochures and pointless business cards Wu Fan seems to have pulled out of his wallet in an attempt to slim it down. Yixing stops upon spotting the familiar logo of Xingpark, onlyyixing, and lovelyixing under folded receipts. Yixing thinks about the way Wu Fan's co-star had known of his platinum certification and gulps.
Eat your heart out, Li Laoshi.
Wu Fan appears in the door way a few minutes later, just in time for Yixing to confirm his suspicions."What are you-" Wu Fan starts to say, but stops at the expression on Yixing's face.
"Why can't you just tell the truth?" Yixing asks. "You put on this great act of not wanting to be near me but then go quoting my songs and donating to my fanclubs. Why can't you-just-"
“Why are you going through my stuff?” Wu Fan asks instead of answering, alarm flashing across his face. “You shouldn’t-”
“You’re the one who invited me up here,” Yixing cuts in, effectively shutting Wu Fan up. Yixing begins shuffling through the cards, reading the names and contact info aloud. It feels almost surreal that, in this life, Wu Fan could be his fan and do something so equally silly yet earnest. “Why?”
Wu Fan deflates a little when Yixing stares him down. “You weren’t suppose to see that.”
Yixing puts up a hand to stop Wu Fan from talking. Wu Fan seems to have all these theories about how things are supposed to go, but Yixing knows that Wu Fan has no right to decide things for him. Not anymore. “Why are you doing all this?”
Wu Fan seems dejected instead of affronted, dropping his hands to his sides. "Because- because we weren't- I didn't think I was ready for it."
"That's unfair," Yixing all but whispers. His anger makes more sense now that he’s vocalized it. "You made me feel like a farce. Like, despite knowing how I felt about you, everything meant nothing to you."
To his credit, Wu Fan simply looks confused. Concerned, maybe. "That's not-"
"You just left. You made me feel like the people closest to me, the people who knew me best, would never love me. Not the way I wanted you to." Yixing closes his eyes and looks away. When Wu Fan begins to move towards him, Yixing asks without turning. "You told me we couldn’t be together. What changed?"
"I changed." Wu Fan closes the distance after a second or a year. His hands find the edge of Yixing's jaw, his touch soft.
Yixing feels like he should resist, but fighting is tiring when all he wants to do is to surrender to Wu Fan. They've danced around each other for so long when the only thing pushing them apart had been themselves. His last birthday wish had been to be more honest with himself. Yixing thinks they could have saved hours and years if Wu Fan had just been more honest too. Now acutely aware of the closing distance between them, Yixing leans in.
Wu Fan’s breath hovers over Yixing's lips for a second before he kisses him, determined and purposeful.
"Is this okay?" Wu Fan asks after a second, looking at Yixing. "Are you okay?"
Yixing has a head full of doubt but a heart full of promise. Being here with Wu Fan seems more than okay, more than enough. "Yes," he says, pressing himself closer to Wu Fan. "Yes, yes, yes."
Although Yixing is old enough to question idealistic love, something monumental shifts after that night. It's the small things that culminate to a turning point -- hearing Wu Fan's voice over the phone for once, finding a visitor on his doorstep at the most unexpected of times, and having a warm body in his bed on days that Wu Fan doesn't feel like going home.
Wu Fan continues to promote his movie through the rest of the month. The box office numbers are announced all over the radio, with trailers on major networks. Most days, Wu Fan hits Yixing's place after working or traveling, becoming one with Yixing's couch with all pretense of the sophisticated movie star forgotten.
One day, Wu Fan calls while Yixing is leaving the studio. When Yixing confirms that he's near Chaoyang, Wu Fan asks him to drop by his place. "I might have left my stove on," Wu Fan explains, sounding distracted. "I would ask my manager, but his wife is a week overdue and I won't be back until tomorrow."
Wu Fan thanks him when he agrees. "What? No promise of a reward?" Yixing asks, committing Wu Fan's door code to memory. He orders Wu Fan back to his interview and promises to drop by before Wu Fan's place burns down.
Yixing has always known that Wu Fan owned property in this part of the city, but his determination to stay out of Wu Fan's way had prevented him from investigating further. Wu Fan's condo is on the tenth floor of a luxury high rise, the doorman eyeing him when Yixing first enters the building. The interior of Wu Fan's abode resembles that of a western penthouse, heavy curtains drawn aside from the casement window enveloping one whole wall.
Upon turning off the electric stove, Yixing wanders through the rooms. For someone who's always been so keen on appearances, Wu Fan still owns some distinctly childish items. Yixing picks up the dragon doll from the sofa, tucking it under his arm as he peruses Wu Fan's bookshelf. He spots a pile of letters sitting next to a collection of CDs. Yixing traces the bridge of Lu Han's CD, neatly stacked beside Jongdae's first single and three different editions of Kyungsoo and Baekhyun's album. Framed on the walls are old polaroids, photos from their first few award shows, and a family portrait.
Yixing remembers Wu Fan's father, a loud but kind man with equally strong facial features. He knows the man had died of lung cancer almost a year ago. Never having received an invitation to the funeral, Yixing had felt it would be rude to intrude on such a private affair. Now Yixing realizes that he has missed out on so much, despite the increasingly smaller gap between them now.
Yixing is still hanging around when Wu Fan returns the next day. Yixing had fallen asleep on Wu Fan's bed while watching a foreign cooking show on television. Despite Yixing's sleepy mumbling, Wu Fan looks absolutely awake when he perches on the edge of the bed.
"Do you want your reward now?" Wu Fan asks, running one hand down Yixing's arm.
They fuck on Wu Fan's bed, Yixing arching up into Wu Fan's touch and grasping at his shoulder. The sheets smell of cologne when Yixing leans upon his elbows afterwards, feeling Wu Fan trace weird shapes on his shoulder blade. "Why do you always insist on staying at my apartment?" Yixing asks.
Wu Fan murmurs into Yixing's neck. "Because this place is lonely. And empty. And there's no food."
"Oh." Yixing pauses. "I went grocery shopping yesterday and filled your pantry. Did you know that the market down the street runs weekly specials?"
Wu Fan just stares at him.
"What?" Yixing asks. "Things were on sale."
"You're ridiculous," Wu Fan says, then proceeds to kiss, kiss, and kiss Yixing breathless.
Their relationship feels like a series of walking contradictions. They still disagree on weird things while pausing in the doorway as they put shoes on, but being with Wu Fan is overwhelmingly comfortable, and sometimes Yixing wonders if loving Wu Fan has made him redefine and restructure all other aspects of his life. At times, Yixing feels he's discovering something new about Wu Fan, only to realize that Wu Fan is still the same person he has always loved.
Wu Fan protests Yixing's homebody tendencies by scheduling regular dinners and sending him official looking memos via their managers -- an inside joke that never grows old. It's a logical plan, really. Wu Fan makes reservations at high end places with reputable security to prevent the press, fans, and anyone unexpected from accidentally spotting them.
This works until Lu Han shows up at their table one night. His date has a hand set firmly on Lu Han's right arm, as if she has been trying to tug him away. She flushes and drops her hand, and Yixing almost doesn't recognize her without the ponytail and that perpetually harassed expression.
"Well, well, well," Lu Han says, glancing from the wine to the way Wu Fan is holding Yixing's hand over the table. Yixing almost lets go, relaxing only when Wu Fan squeezes his hand reassuringly. Lu Han continues, an odd smile on his face. "I can't say I'm surprised, but I'll keep your secret if you keep mine." He walks off with his date without waiting for a reply.
"Wasn't that his manager?" Wu Fan whispers after a minute.
"No. Yes." Yixing grins. "Maybe."
One day, Wu Fan finds Yixing in the middle of songwriting. He tries to steal the notebook away from Yixing, engaging him in a mini struggle until Yixing bangs his elbow on the table. "You're really not smooth," Yixing whines while Wu Fan kisses his wound better.
"What are you writing about?" Wu Fan asks.
"Love. Despair. You know, the usual stuff."
Wu Fan grins, setting Yixing's elbow down but linking their hands together. "Right. And how many songs have you written about me?"
"None, you narcissist." Yixing moves his guitar to a safe surface before standing up. He smiles sheepishly. "Not including the seven on my debut album."
Wu Fan just laughs before pressing Yixing against the table and kissing him. They stay like that for a while, Yixing's back digging uncomfortably against the edge as they ignore the beeping of Wu Fan's phone. Three seconds later, Yixing's phone vibrates as well. They pause for a second.
"Kiss me again," Yixing demands. Wu Fan complies, one hand moving down Yixing's hip when another notification sounds, followed by more beeping sounds that indicate multiple text messages. There's only one group chat that Yixing and Wu Fan both subscribe to. The possible conversations are endless with ten other people only a button away. Someone could be in town. Kyungsoo could have sent another photo of food. There may potentially be another panda video waiting in the inbox. When the beeping continues to echo through the room, Yixing realizes that this may also be important.
Wu Fan seems to have read his mind, leaning back as he scrolls through his phone. After a moment, he speaks up in an odd voice. "Jongdae is engaged."
"What." Yixing fumbles with the screen until he pulls up the conversation. At the very top is a photo of slender fingers and a ring, followed by the caption she said yes!!!. "Oh."
“Another wedding.” Wu Fan leans onto Yixing's side. "Do you think we're getting old?"
"Nah." Yixing hooks an arm through Wu Fan’s and starts to reply to the message. He looks up upon finishing, setting his hand on top of Wu Fan’s.
So much has changed for all of them, he thinks. For a moment, Yixing feels transported back in time to that small dorm in Seoul with four other boys. Yixing is twenty-one, raw and aching for a small taste of debut and a love that can never be requited. Then Wu Fan squeezes Yixing's arm, and everything is well.