Pairings: Sehun/Lu Han, implied Taemin/Kai
Warnings: chronologically nonlinear format, with canon and future exo au
Summary: For one second, he's back six years and Lu Han is in front of him with his hand outstretched.
Author's note: hello msbubbletea! hope you like it :) and just a disclaimer/reminder: a bunch of things here are 'canon', taken from fanaccs and events, but the rest is just fiction. title from onerepublic's song stop and stare.
Lights glitter. Stage after stage. Bangtan, Akdong Musicians, a pause and a skit. MC banter. Some C-pop groups. A Vietnamese singer up next, and one of the MCs exits.
Minho and Taemin moving over to their table means Yiyin won't be far behind. He looks around, and sure enough, there she is now. "Sehun!" she grins wide, eyeshadow silver and hair streaked with red.
"Noona," he bows, and gives her his chair.
"A gentleman, a gentleman!" Taemin crows. Next to him, Jongin snickers.
"Clearly the only one at this table," she replies loftily, and everyone groans.
"My heart," Jongdae shakes his head. "I don't deserve this."
Sehun edges away, smiling slightly as he looks at them all. As dull as these events usually are — sit, perform for ten minutes, sit for another two hours — the way they get to their old habits and fall back in with busy friends is more than worth it.
He wanders around the table for a bit, Baekhyun catching his eye and tilting his head curiously before something Kyungsoo makes the entire table laugh. Sehun slips off and finds an empty chair by Soojung.
"Hey," she says, eyes on the stage. "You came after all."
"Hmm," he sighs, leaning against the back of his seat and folding his arms. "Director said they could shoot scenes I'm not required in for a few days. So I made it."
She shoots him a glance, sly smile curling up. He braces himself for a scathing comment.
"A few days? Don't have a lot of screentime for a protagonist, do you?"
"Sidekick this time," Sehun reminds her, mumbling, and she nudges him with her elbow in triumph.
"Ow," he provides, and she just calls him a wuss, concentration back on the podium. She doesn't say much, just remarking on a few movies, some nominee choices, and he says even less, mostly grunting mindless agreement.
"What the hell," she sighs. "Lee Minho, again?"
"Hmm," he says, clapping because everyone else is. Seulgi and Zhou Mi sit down next to him.
Another man in a suit walks onto the stage, hair dark and gelled up, smile infectious even from all that distance away. Sehun sits up a little straighter. If anyone next to him notices, they don't say anything. But when the woman in red announces the man's name and welcomes him as the MC of their second segment, Zhou Mi touches Sehun at once. Just a brush of knuckles. Hey. Stay here.
And Sehun tries, he really does. He's been trying and most days he's succeeded. Most days everything is fine, and if there's an ache then it's dull, and if there's nostalgia then it's weary. But this man is standing here, breathing in the same air as Sehun, and Sehun's pulse sounds ominous in his own ears. Thump, thump, thump. He wants to stay here. He wants to. But there are a million things dragging him backwards.
Lu Han stands on the stage, picture perfect and delightful, mouth opening to say his practiced lines, to laugh at his colleague's, to announce awards and call out names that aren't his, aren't Sehun, Sehuna, Hunnie, Hun.
Sehun's fingers claw into his thighs. He closes his eyes, and the pictures fly under his eyelids.
December, years ago now. December, at the time. The grandest way to end the night, the happiest sounds caught in their throats. Jongin crying, Jinki hyung hugging Yixing, everyone tearing up and hugging and cheering. Lu Han nearly sobbing, Minseok hyung's protective hand on his back. They'd won.
"We won!" Lu Han yells, as they run around and jump in a circle, shoulders set and heads down. And Sehun had stared at all those pairs of feet around his, had been foolish enough to believe themselves invincible.
The moments flash around, not in order. Lu Han and Jongdae singing Mirotic. Lucifer. Another night, Lu Han hitting him with feathers in front of the audience - but in that moment it really had felt like it was just them in the entire world. Chanyeol squirming under Jongdae's onslaught. There was so much, so much, and Sehun's chest had felt so full and his throat so tight, his entire body buzzing so good. Win after win.
Dance practice. Lu Han bringing up their trophies and miming to All I Do Is Win in the studio. The entire group laughing their asses off, Yifan actually sliding out of his chair. Tears streaming down Baekhyun's face, Zitao's high pitched laughter. And Lu Han just pausing and looking at them all, grinning, hands on his hips. Sehun had grinned back, and Lu Han let out a little laugh of his own.
Every second, unbeatable. Every moment better, worth more than the one before. And Sehun wouldn't tell anyone, but he'd had BAP's Unbreakable his head for months, replaying in his head every night when they were done with practice and trying to catch their breaths.
A J-Pop group, a movie trailer. Minho on stage for directing a drama — Sehun's too dazed to recall which one. Soojung glances at him sideways, crosses her legs. Zhou Mi's long gone, and Seulgi sits awkwardly, the empty chair between them.
Lu Han is still standing at the podium, smiling politely as Minho bows, raises his trophy and leaves.
"Best male movie lead up next," Soojung says, abruptly. "You nominated?"
Getting ready for the showcase. "Oh God," Jongin's saying. "Oh God, oh God, oh God."
"Taemin finally rubbed his rosary off on you?" Chanyeol jokes, but his grin's tight around the edges, and his fingers keep tapping his knees, a steady rhythm in the midst of this chaos for some semblance of sanity.
"Very funny," Jongin sighs, rolling his neck. Sehun can hear his joints crack from across the room.
"Almost done now," the stylist noona says, sing-song and under her breath. She's touching up his hair, and he doesn't miss her muttering about his forehead. Lu Han catches it, too, and frowns. He's leaning against Sehun's table, checking his phone. "Hey," he says, seriously, once the stylist walks off, and Sehun looks up at him. Lu Han's so... so blond and milk-skinned and dewy-eyed.
"You look great," Sehun blurts out.
Lu Han smiles, and his eyes shine, and Sehun doesn't understand how Lu Han can look this calm when everyone's so nervous — "Come here," Lu Han says, hand out. Sehun grabs it and pulls himself up. Lu Han's arm goes around his waist comfortably, just like it always does and always has. It makes Sehun calm just the smallest bit. They walk to Yifan's table, where he's just staring at his hands and blinking.
"Hey," Lu Han says to him, too. Yifan looks up. "Stand up."
"Uh," Yifan says. He stands up, and Lu Han turns them both towards the mirror.
Yifan's left eye looks like it's going to twitch out of fright; Sehun is practically gaping at his reflection because his face doesn't know what to do with itself, so he quickly fixes it to a blank expression. Lu Han is the only one who looks vaguely normal. "Alright," Lu Han claps their shoulders. "We look pretty chill."
"Hmm," Yifan says, left eye relaxing, before walking away.
"Sehun," Lu Han grips his shoulder tight. "We look good, okay?"
"We look good," Sehun swallows.
Lu Han grins at him, feral and fierce and forcing him to believe. "Of course we do. Of course."
Of course. Sehun's legs have taken him to the front row, and there's an empty line of seats behind all the tables, so he slips into one. He's so close — so fucking close. He feels his pulse throb in his fingers as he sits and stares at that face. He looks like he used to, like he was on Sehun's birthday that year.
"And our nominees for best male lead," the woman is saying, as Lu Han takes out his card and reads it. Instinctively, Sehun leans closer. He wants to see his face, wants to see his expression, wants get inside his head and know what Lu Han thinks when he sees Sehun's name.
And maybe Sehun imagines it, but Lu Han's smiles wavers, turns stubborn and plastic for the smallest moment before it look alright again. Lu Han looks up - into the audience? Into the camera? To search for Sehun's face in the crowd? - and reads out the names. When he says Oh Sehun and the preview of the movie he was in shows on the big screen, Lu Han's voice doesn't shake, doesn't crack. His face doesn't betray anything, and Sehun falls back into his seat.
The lady next to him gives him a startled look. He ignores her.
Disappointed? Relieved? Confused? Hurt—- no. Sehun feels everything these days, but he's moved past hurt.
He doesn't win, of course. The guy who takes away the trophy is a Japanese man whose name Sehun didn't catch, and Sehun feels a number of things he can't figure out right now, but he's not bitter, either. Not about the win, not about Lu Han.
"Best female lead," the woman says, and the nominee names begin. Sehun gets up and walks off. Cameras will probably be catching him wandering around the event like a goddamned fool, but the press can't be worse than when Dispatch spotted him on a date with Bomi. One year on since then. Three years on since way back when.
Life has a way with hitting lessons home repeatedly, and Sehun remembers feeling helpless twice that year when the articles came out and the rooms emptied, remembers feeling helpless every damned second, helpless when he woke up and went to sleep and when he wasn't dancing, helpless when he got out of bed twenty one months later to an inbox of fifty messages from friends and seven missed calls and a single voice message from his girlfriend. "They know, but don't worry, we'll be fine." The hate they had to face for weeks, thick like heavy smoke and just as toxic.
Helpless and wanting to change, wanting to turn back time and fix it. Life's taught him so much about that feeling. About how there's nothing he can do about it.
The bar counter glistens in front of him, cold marble just wiped clean. Sehun reaches for a flute and sniffs it. Champagne. He's a lightweight, but it'll be okay for tonight.
He's back at his own table, and Lu Han's no longer on the podium. Yiyin's gone off somewhere else, and Taemin is practically sitting in Jongin's lap. Sehun's gut wrenches, but it's more out of reflex at the ghost of a feeling than a feeling itself. He sips his drink, and beside him, Minho talks about the experience of a director versus an actor's. Lu Han, Sehun thinks, and nods along.
"So," Jongdae says, once Minho decides to drift back to SHINee's table. "Something's definitely up."
Sehun snorts as he sets his flute down firmly. In all honestly, it wasn't as if he hadn't been thinking about how none of the others seemed as surprised at this as he did, but then most of them had stayed or gotten back in touch with Lu Han anyway —- some even with Yifan as well. Sehun cricks his neck and raises an eyebrow. "You think?"
Jongdae laughs, eyes crinkling, the corners of his mouth curving sweetly. Jongdae looks so cute laughing. Lu Han had always looked positively monstrous in comparison. "Ah, really!" Jongdae says. "You can tell me, you know."
"I know." And Sehun really considers it, but right as he's about to start it off in a roundabout way, Baekhyun drags Jongdae usp because Taekwoon and Jaebum are passing through and saying hey. Jongdae glances at Sehun, worried, over his shoulder, as he walks away.
Someone else on the podium is giving a speech now. Restless, Sehun gets up and goes to the bar again.
He's trying to decide whether he wants vodka or this light pink glass on the side, when he hears someone walk over, too. Out of courtesy, he turns around and bows immediately. But when he looks up, back straightening, he freezes. Lu Han's standing in front of him, lights glittering above him and casting his skin over with a slightly blue shimmer. His hands are in his pockets, his mouth is in an O and his eyes look amused.
"Sehun?" Lu Han says, and Sehun closes his eyes at that because it's been so long since this has happened, since they've stood face to face and Lu Han has said his name, speaking only to him.
Sehun doesn't know what to say. Lu Han? Han? Hannie? Hyung? Xiao Lu?
Standing next to each other, backstage, elbows bumping. The silence is painfully awkward whenever it sets in between the pauses of Lu Han's determinedly cheerful ramble, and Sehun wishes he wasn't taller than Lu Han, wishes someone else would speak up and apologize, maybe offer Lu Han a chair up on stage so he wouldn't have to run around and get out of breath. They dragged him out of the hospital, for fuck's sake. They owe him something.
"Yo," Lu Han says, eventually. "It'll be okay."
Except it won't. Sehun feels cold flood up his bones, because he is suddenly dead sure that it won't.
"Hyung," Sehun croaks, and Lu Han's slightly worried expression shifts to relief.
"Yo," Lu Han grins. "You okay?"
Sehun's knees feel like they're going to start shaking. But he's gotten good at lying through his teeth to outsiders, and Lu Han now is almost a stranger compared to Lu Han then. "Peachy," he smiles back dryly, and Lu Han laughs. It's the best and the worst thing in the world. His own hands, Sehun realizes, are curled into fists and sweating. He stuffs them into his pant pockets.
Lu Han finally quiets down, then sighs. "Yo," he says again, a tinge of regret in his voice this time. "Hun."
Shoulders touching, the whirring of electric fans at their feet, the bustle of the staff, the chants of the waiting audience. Kyungsoo nudging Jongdae, Chanyeol staring into space with his jaw set. Jongin peering over to Sehun and Lu Han. Lu Han grinning at them both, for them both. It's going to be okay, I swear, what the hell, you kids.
Sungmin hyung peering in at the door and telling them it's time, Leeteuk hyung will be waiting for them on stage, now.
"What happened?" Sehun blurts out, circumstances so different from when he'd been eighteen and nervous and new to all this makeup, when they'd both been stuffed into ridiculous silver jackets and trained to dance to a song that started with the words careless, careless. But the trust is still there. For one second, he's back six years and Lu Han is in front of him with his hand outstretched.
But then Sehun blinks, and both their hands are to themselves, arms tight at the sides, and Sehun is twenty four and they're in tuxedos and meeting for the first time in three years. Lu Han's smile is not forcing him to believe anything. It's tired and soft, and he just says, "Sehun..." Then the silence again. Not awkward, less painful, but heavy and oppressive.
A ripple of claps from the audience, some camera flashes. They'll be capturing this, Sehun realizes. Within the hour there'll be explosions on Twitter and various forums, girls discussing and dissecting and distilling these pictures of them standing two feet apart and trying to talk like nothing's wrong, like they've been doing this all along. Lu Han is getting two glasses now, one for each of them, and pulling it off so casually that they definitely will believe they've been keeping in touch so far. The ease with which Lu Han hands Sehun's drink over looks effortless.
"How're you doing it," Sehun says, lifting the drink to his lips. He catches a whiff of fruity undertones.
"How we were taught," Lu Han replies, lightly. "Old habits die hard."
Sehun down the entire thing in one go, eyes watering at the burn in his throat. "Yeah? Make a habit of talking to people every three years?"
Lu Han's smile turns down a notch. "Not like I haven't tried before."
Sehun knows —- the others coming over with their phones in hand, telling him Lu Han wants to talk, Lu Han's saying hello, Lu Han — Sehun always said no, closed the door, turned away.
"I don't think I'm sorry," Sehun shrugs, as Lu Han steps closer. Elbows bumping, shoulders touching. More cameras flash, and something rises in Sehun's throat, clams up and crawls back down. Lu Han smiles, raises his own glass in answer. "I don't blame you." His smile stays on, eyes flickering over Sehun's face. Not searching for anything, just looking. Sehun turns to face the podium, the two small figures talking about the meaning of entertainment and talent and honed skill. He can still feel Lu Han's eyes on him.
"Lifetime achievement award?" Sehun asks, lifting his chin in the MCs' direction. Lu Han bows his head for a few seconds, listening to them before he replies. "Yeah, probably."
Sehun reaches for another glass, but Lu Han stops him, hand on wrist. It's such a sure touch, so warm and real; it feels like the earth is giving way beneath Sehun's feet.
Japan, the night before the concert starts. Air conditioning turned on full, sheets white and smelling fresh. Lu Han draped over one bed, Sehun on the other. An amicable silence between them as Lu Han browses Weibo on his laptop and Sehun watched YouTube videos on his phone.
"Pretty damned hungry," Lu Han comments, eventually. His chin is on his arms, legs kicking the air. "Let's get something mindblowing."
"Mm," Sehun mumbles, not really paying attention. Then, "What blowing?"
Lu Han snorts. "You blowing," he rolls over with a rakish grin. "Me." An eyebrow wiggle that makes Sehun throw a pillow in his face.
"Alright, alright," Lu Han laughs. "I said mindblowing food. Let's go out and eat."
"Room service," Sehun protests, glancing at the clock. "And it's half past midnight!" But his objection falls pretty flat since he's already slipping into his shoes.
"And yet your actions belie your words," Lu Han notes, already out the door. "Come on, hurry!"
"Belie," Sehun repeats loudly, padding down the corridor. "Since when did he get all posh with his Hangul?"
"Since nineteen ninety, baby!" Lu Han calls back, laughing as he enters the elevator.
The streets they wind through are people-full to bursting and tiresomely alive. Sehun had been planning to sleep in a bit, before Lu Han had suggested food. Sehun keeps his head down and grips Lu Han's elbow. "Relax," Lu Han yells over everyone else's noise. "We've got phones and all. Age of technology!"
Sehun ends up dragging him to a ramen shop, partly because Sehun's a dweeb who's way too fascinated with Naruto's food choices, and partly because Lu Han is terribly indecisive. They order ramen, and Sehun eats at least four bowls of it before he starts to feel full. "Maybe I should stop," he says.
Lu Han laughs. "You think?" But he lets Sehun have another bowl, before telling him to stop. "Wait, let's take a selca. Just be a minute, okay? Here," he says, shoving his phone over to a passerby, "Please take a picture of us."
Sehun wants the ramen, but he doesn't have a choice, so he makes a peace sign and attempts to smile. As soon as the phone's back in Lu Han's hands, Sehun makes to ask the waitress for another bowl.
"Oi oi," Lu Han warns. "Don't want to throw up tomorrow, do you?"
"Just a little," Sehun pleads, reaching for Lu Han's bowl. It has some left and Sehun hasn't tasted anything better since the beginning of time.
Lu Han stops him, hand on his wrist. "If you dare touch my ramen," he warns, and doesn't need to complete his sentence. Sehun's arms slink back as he sighs.
"If you drink anymore you'll get tipsy," Lu Han says, arm lowering, fingers brushing over knuckles.
Sehun swallows and stares at their hands.
"Unless," Lu Han sounds uncertain. "You're somehow grown out of you lightweight high schooler phase."
"No," Sehun pulls his hand back, rests it on the table. "I haven't."
"Come on then," Lu Han says, beckoning. "Let's stand somewhere that seems less shady to the public eye."
Sehun sits behind Lu Han, all the other seats in the section full, listening to some middle-aged lady chatter away happily in Mandarin. Something about the grand performances and all the handsome men. "Good faces," she's saying, contentedly. "Everywhere such good faces."
Sehun tunes her out, choosing to look at the back of Lu Han's head instead, the slope of his neck and curve of his shoulders. The one earring he's got on. Three years and then three before, the first of April — their month — Lu Han had sat in front and Sehun had stood behind, hands on Lu Han's shoulders, eyes and ears only for Xiao Lu.
"Aah!" Lu Han calls out, surprised, standing up as he claps, and Sehun jerks back to the present, body mimicking Lu Han's just like it always has — in simple movement, in dance, in sleep.
The event goes on for hours, and by the time people begin to drift off, Sehun's tired enough to say yes almost before Lu Han finishes his questions of, "Swap numbers, then? Drinks, another day?"
The rest of the night is restless, after Lu Han's gone and Chanyeol winds his way through the tables to pull Sehun to his feet and get him back with the rest of them.
"Hyung," Sehun says, words a little slurred. "You've been talking with Lu Han hyung for a while, right?" He rests his head on Chanyeol's shoulder.
"Well," Chanyeol replies, voice careful. "Yes, I guess. Quite a while."
"Hmm," is all Sehun says in response.
They reach the dorms in the small hours of the morning, and Sehun tosses until noon, thinking about how they used to sleep.
"Hey, check this," Lu Han says excitedly. "This song is so damn good, wait for the drop." He wiggles a little, propping himself up on his elbows, and hands an earphone over to Sehun. "Here here, see."
"Guh," Sehun groans intelligently, and sticks the earphone in before flopping his face into the pillow. The song starts out a little slow, words flying over his head because it's two a.m. and he can't be bothered to try and understand Mandarin, but then a rapper features in, and crap. That is a sick drop. "Ayyy," Sehun mumbles in appreciation, and throws a leg over Lu Han's waist.
"Oh, get off," Lu Han huffs, but it's without bite.
They are seventeen and twenty one, and Sehun can't sleep alone in new rooms so he shuffles over to Lu Han's bed, and all Lu Han does is move over to give him space. The first few nights find Sehun dozing off in little packets of ten minutes, five, fifteen, and once the week is over, his brain's conditioned to shut down the minute his head hits Lu Han's pillow.
Sehun is sweating alone on his bedsheets because his A/C's conked out. If Zitao were here, they'd curse it and maybe watch cat videos and consider a smoke, but Zitao's gone for his weekly physiotherapy appointment at 7 a.m., and now it's noon and Sehun hasn't slept a wink.
Since he's still got tomorrow off, he spends his time either playing on the Xbox or browsing through Chanyeol's library of various compositions, snippets and random recordings. When he glances at the dock on the screen, he realizes it's Saturday. Out of habit, out perhaps out of curiosity — probably a mix of both — Sehun walks over to Joonmyun's room and knocks.
Minseok calls him in.
The door opens to Joonmyun frowning at his laptop, huge headphones on. Minseok's staring at his own screen, headphones around his neck. "Hey," Minseok says, not taking his eyes off the screen. "What brings our young soldier to headquarters." He doesn't even bother with an inquisitive intonation, too busy pounding his keys. "Joonmyun, don't kill me, kill the enemy."
Joonmyun doesn't respond. Sehun closes the door behind him and sits on the ottoman by Minseok's bed. Joonmyun looks up in surprise. "Ah, Sehun!" he yells. "Are we having a Saturday catch-up meeting today? Want to talk about anything in particular?"
Minseok slumps back, "We're dead, Joonmyun." Joonmyun doesn't hear him, glances down at his screen and realizes their fate. "Oh no!" Joonmyun yells. "We're dead, Minseok!"
"Never mind him" Minseok shakes his head. "What's up, kid?"
"Not a kid," Sehun reminds him, purely out of habit.
"Fine, punk. What brings you here?" Idly, he leans over to ruffle Sehun's hair. Joonmyun manages to pull off his headphones after a valiant fight.
"I don't know," Sehun admits. He'd rather spend time with people who stick around than think about people who don't. "What's up with you guys?"
"Hmm," Joonmyun says. "Minseok, do we really have schedules at the moment?"
"Joonmyun," Minseok replies, grave. "I don't believe we do."
Joonmyun's grown more tactful over the years, and Minseok, less silent. Where Joonmyun would have pestered him with a hundred questions and Minseok would have looked on uncomfortably, now they distract him with small talk and a trip to a cafe, an afternoon visit to the cinema, random conversation and updates on mutual friends and plans the managers have been discussing recently. Sehun sits back and lets it set in.
And despite what he'd told himself earlier, all he thinks is, Lu Han. Lu Han.. He smiles when Minseok suggests a second visit to the cafe.
He goes back to work on Monday, crew team bearing down on him with makeup, latte and an endless stream of chatter that he tries his best to keep up with.
"You're back," Minjung smiles, all teeth and no warmth.
"At your service," he returns, weakly. He wonders how the agency decided to cast them together. They have zero chemistry to speak of, neither on set nor off.
The entire week is a haze of filming, work as usual. Cut, retake, shoot, action. Sehun needs to put more emotion in this scene, should face more to the left so his back is to the camera in this other sequence. Makeup, removal, wardrobe change.
It's a blessed switch of tracks for his thoughts — no more sinking into bygones and losing his grip on time.
On Monday evening, one of their managers texts to tell him he'll be half an hour late. On Tuesday morning, Jongdae sends a snapchat of Jonghyun hyung trying to twerk. It's captioned I've seen it all. Later that night, on the way to the dorms, Baekhyun sends their chatroom a photo from Athens, where five of them are performing at Music Bank.
Apparently Baekhyun's sightseeing, because he's next to a statue of some naked dude, mimicking the pose. The tagline is, I need to do more bodybuilding... that guy is hotter than me.
He's stone cold and dead and still hotter than you, Kyungsoo replies.
Rock hard, Chanyeol adds.
Sehun grins at the screen, sighing as he leans his head against the window.
When he reaches, nobody's there. Schedules are crazy, Sehun thinks for the umpteenth time. All out for three days straight and no sleep, or nothing for a week.
The silence in the rooms isn't good for him. The TV has nothing interesting on, so he curls up on the sofa and pulls out his phone.
He's older now, he tells himself. And no longer helplessly codependent. He's got his own life, and he's got it together. And yet, however busy he'd been, even in the middle of reciting lines of a heartfelt confession to his co-star, it had been niggling in the back of his head for the past few days: Lu Han had seemed... happy to see him. Had promised to see him again — had given him his number.
Sehun's thumb hovers over the contact, then scrolls adamantly down. He won't say anything first. Things are different now, and Lu Han knows that. Lu Han has always known him. And then he up and left but Sehun has a feeling Lu Han still knows Sehun in ways he doesn't know himself.
"Excited?" Lu Han whispers, flowers from Sehun's bouquet tickling both their noses. Chanyeol hovers close by, and Jongin laughs in embarrassment as an acquaintance says hello. Jongdae stands a little to the side, ever ready to help with anything.
"I dunno," Sehun whispers back, but he's grinning, so he probably is. Somewhat.
"Nervous and thrilled and miserable," Lu Han guesses.
Sehun starts. "You didn't have to say miserable."
"Well, then, a little sad," Lu Han amends.
And he is. Sehun doesn't know why, but he is. Behind the bouquet, Lu Han sneaks a hand into the crook of Sehun's elbow. "I've got you," he says, breath puffing against Sehun's cheek, and Sehun shivers, and Sehun wants him to just lean forward and kiss and — Sehun squeezes his arm against his side so Lu Han can't pull his hand away.
"You better," he says, smile as bold as he can manage.
The director says he wants Sehun to think of some of the most content moments in his life. Apparently he's been looking stressed the past few days, and though that had been alright for those scenes, it's not the best look for this one.
Sehun's reclining on a sofa, staring at his phone. It's been loaded with posed selcas and kisses he was paid to take, smiles fixed and for an audience. But they're all happy and he's got a girl on his arm and it's just for a drama. It's just for a Goddamned drama. It's not like this isn't already his entire life as an idol: pose, wave, brave the flash and smile.
He supposes the director is right, so he stares hard at the photo he's swiped his way to. She's laughing and her eyes are screwed shut, he's tutting and brushing his hands over her hair — he'd been picking a leaf out from behind her ear, if he remembers right.
The most content moments of your life.
Sehun thinks small hands and small feet.
Ice cream and cotton candy, age five, holding onto his father's shirt.
Twelve, floating in a batch and blowing bubbles.
Drinking milk on the roof, fifteen, Chanyeol talking about high school next year. Just them and the entire city below, car car car person bicycle car car traffic signal, a cat leaping from a low wall to another car, car car car car. Road and more road, twisting streets and people everywhere. "Maybe acting school," Chanyeol's saying, and Sehun sucks up his carton until it crumples.
Seventeen, Lu Han telling him, "Good job, good job!"
Eighteen, Lu Han leaning away from him in the bathroom stall, both of them panting heavily, their hands sticky, their elbows bumping. Lu Han rolling his head back, a bead of sweat dripping from his chin and down his neck. Lu Han giving him a sly little side smile, squeezing their hands together.
Seventeen, walking offstage from the first showcase, and Lu Han's hand, as always, right on Sehun's waist.
Eighteen, kissing the shell of Lu Han's ear in a hurry, in the shadows, before he leaves to Beijing. Jongdae turning around to smile, shy and uncertain, as they all wave goodbye.
Twenty, winning another trophy for Growl. Or maybe the entire album — Sehun doesn't remember.
Another thing Sehun doesn't remember precisely all the details of — just the picture of it imprinted on his mind, and the feeling.
Standing on an escalator somewhere, going from one place to another, the group crowded around on steps above and below. Lu Han just one step above, blinking sleepily as he stares straight ahead. Bright morning light softening around Lu Han's face, like he was made for a halo. And from the ceiling, somehow, a feather droops down through the air conditioned place, rocking on currents and settling, finally, on Lu Han's eyelashes.
Sehun chews his lower lip in contemplation, staring and staring until Lu Han turns around to smile down at him. That's when Sehun reaches out and plucks the feather, then thumbs it over Lu Han's cheek.
"Cut!" the director calls, and the scene is over. Sehun blinks at the time on the phone. Barely two minutes have passed. Memories go by so fast. As he sits up properly and makes his way to the bathroom trailer, his mind wanders again.
Back once more, through all these millions of seconds.
"Is that a secret kiss?" Lu Han's eyes crinkle mischievously, and Sehun wants to say, yes — yes yes yes, but he just shrugs his shoulders, drops his hand, fingers curling protectively over the feather. Later, he lets it slip away, out of the van window and into the wind, and feels a tap on his shoulder. "Hey," Lu Han says, "Listen to this." He offers an earphone, and Sehun takes it, his fingertips buzzing when they brush Lu Han's.
Lu Han had saved himself in Sehun's phone as xiao lu.
The first time he texts after they switched numbers that night, it's a month later and Sehun is eating popcorn and watching a movie on his laptop. When he sees his notifications, he chokes and has to chug two glasses of water before his throat feels remotely normal, and even then his head is woozy and his stomach is bloated. The notification still beams peacefully on his screen.
He takes a deep breath, clutching his bowl close to his chest as he checks his messages.
hey! sorry i took so long to get around to doing this messaging thing
As simple as that. hey! Sehun reads again, exhaling, and a thousand things dribble down the corners of exits and detours and do not touch signs that he's collected up inside his chest since, while a hundred others well up inside him and squeeze and dry themselves out, hardening.
He wants to reply, and then again he doesn't.
xiao lu is typing...
Sehun takes another deep breath. Somewhere in Beijing, Lu Han is sitting at his own phone, messaging him. He's alive and breathing and talking to him. And it hurts all the more, because where has he been before, alive and breathing? It felt better to bury memories and pretend everything's gone for good, and yet here Lu Han is, knocking at the figurative door.
Of course, Sehun lets him in. Sehun always will.