Disclaimer: I claim no rights other than on the story
Summary: When all means to reach Yifan after the lawsuit is filed fall out, Joonmyeon resorts to a last, desperate try.
A/N: Angst is not my thing. Look at me writing it anyway. Please don't hate me torakiss. 4270 words
The tip of the pen hovers over the second line on the sheet. The sentence he was about to write slips from Joonmyeon’s memory like silk fabric from skin. There is no time to grab for it, gone faster than his hands can move. His brain floods him with thoughts, attempts to recover the perfect first sentence on his mind for days. He cannot reconstruct it no matter how hard he tries. It is nothing but a cynical metaphor.
"It has been days and I am struggling. Do you remember how we promised as leaders to share everything among us - about the members, the management, the pressure, the joy and us? Do you remember? I hope you do, because despite what the promise seems to mean to you, I am going to share with you. I can’t say it will be pleasant, but honesty is what I have left for you. Read carefully. Read every word. I will repeat nothing."
Joonmyeon sighs and throws the pen on the table. A start is made, but to continue is a hard quest. He gets up and makes himself some coffee, taking Yifan’s favorite mug by habit. He only realizes so when he sits back down. It will have to join the other pile of Yifan’s possessions, which Joonmyeon has stored in his closet. Even now he is wearing one of Yifan’s sweaters; luckily none of the members have commented on it. He stirs the coffee mindlessly and contemplates the next sentences to write.
"How could you? No warning, no sign, no word, just suddenly you are gone and everything we hear is white lies until the company decides to fill us in that you want to force leaving. I don’t know who to believe - the company which of course sees their side, the facts on the lawsuit that hold no explanation or you who left without looking back. You left us. We are 11 people who all need you. You know that very well. You know the responsibility we shared, but being left alone with it, I wonder how to carry the burden by myself. Currently the members are making no trouble. I doubt you have ever seen them that way. How ironic is it that your leave prompts them to listen so well?
Why did you have to do it? Why did you not share your problems with me? I would have helped you. All members would have helped. We could have brought our concerns and issues up together as a group. We have power as so many people. Don’t you trust us? Why did you have to do this on your own? This is hardly going to help any of the guys later if they want contract changes, you know that. And Hangeng’s law firm, really? Do you want to get away from us this badly? I guess I have to assume that you don’t need us like we need you.”
Joonmyeon sips from the coffee and almost burns his lips. Perhaps he is unfair, ungrateful even writing Yifan these things, but he can’t stop himself. It hurts. It hurts and Yifan did not take a single of his calls or answered his pleading messages. Joonmyeon went all out to give Yifan a chance to explain himself. After this letter is written and sent he will close the case and move on. It will take time, but as a group, as EXO, they will get there. They have concerts and performances and interviews. EXO are professionals and they all agreed on showing this to the world. Yifan would have made that decision too… if he was still with them, but he is not. Every single day is a reminder for Joonmyeon.
"The youngest understand, surprisingly. Sehun, Kai and Tao went ahead to claim stuff of yours. Tao sleeps in your blankets. Kai hoards your video games and says he’ll keep them stored for you. Good luck getting them back ever. And Sehun… I will not lie, Yixing and he locked themselves up for a while and when they came back out Sehun had his stoic face on and then went to the bathroom to take your beauty products. I don’t want to know why those out of everything. They separately told me they miss you, but that it’s okay. You are still their friend, even when EXO is no longer 12.
You see, to me it’s not okay. I have to see the members pretending that they are happy for you, for your life choices. Not everyone does very well hiding how much it hurts. Kyungsoo has been out in the company practicing a lot and comes home for sleep, Baekhyun sees Taeyeon often and Jongdae keeps tearing up randomly, which is a first. Luhan has barely uttered a word and Minseok hyung is busy looking after everyone with me. He naturally took the place as M representative and asks all the important questions about M’s future. I am grateful to have him right now. It took such a situation to find Minseok handles responsibility just fine. He knows leadership.”
Joonmyeon drinks a little more from his coffee and glances at the clock. Kyungsoo will soon be home.
"Don’t you think you should explain yourself or at least apologize? If not to the management or the fans, to us you should. You are a brother and friend to our members, you are not a mere coworker to them. If the members are as important to you as you told me they are, you wouldn’t have left them wondering about your relationship aside from all this idol business. Everyone is thrown off because they question what they are to you."
There is noise in the kitchen and Joonmyeon abandons paper and pen to check. He is shortly relieved when he sees Kyungsoo at the oven. It is good to have him home.
“Hi” Joonmyeon says softly and Kyungsoo gives him an acknowledging nod while stirring instant ramyun in a pot. Joonmyeon says nothing further and puts two sets of place cover on the table. He watches Kyungsoo eat in silence, the second set remaining untouched. It is not for him.
“He makes me angry.” Kyungsoo finally says and puts his chopsticks aside.
“Don’t kid yourself. Anger is not your prior emotion.”
“Just because I show clearly and more open than you that I miss him does not mean I’m not angry too.” Joonmyeon protests sourly and makes a move to get up. He is not in the mood to deal with Kyungsoo when he is like this.
However, Kyungsoo tugs him back at his sleeve and makes his typical semi-apologetic face. With a sigh Joonmyeon sits back down and waits for Kyungsoo to continue.
“I thought it meant something to him, being twelve yet one. What am I supposed to do with this now? That idiot doesn’t even know how much his presence was among us. We have a concert tour ahead and the members would need his assuring aura now. Everyone suddenly makes beginner mistakes and I am tired of seeing Jongdae choking on his emotions and you pretending that he is still there.”
Joonmyeon snorts at him.
“You are one to talk. How many dinners like this did you have?”
“Kris liked Midnight ramyun.” Kyungsoo defends himself with thin voice and Joonmyeon hugs him when he comes crashing down seconds after. Kyungsoo cries just a little, but enough for Joonmyeon to be relieved that he lets his feelings out.
Returned to his letter Joonmyeon feels several things at once. Sure, he had been aware that Kyungsoo had been avoiding any situation causing to reveal what he feels, but he is surprised nonetheless that Yifan got even under Kyungsoo’s skin to such a degree. It makes him feel angrier, sadder and terribly conflicted, because right in this situation Yifan would know what to do, would know how to approach Kyungsoo, how to make Luhan speak and Yixing mean the smile on his lips. He would know how to dry Jongdae’s tears, see through Minseok’s serious attitude and hold Tao without awkwardness. Joonmyeon wishes Yifan was not the problem but the solution.
"I hate you for putting us in such a place. You came with such great willingness to be the base of this great thing that EXO is, but now that base is just emptiness whispering broken promises.”
The pen lingers as Joonmyeon hesitates. He contemplates if he wants to bring up the unspoken, the avoided, the disputable. The coffee is cold by now and he figures by Yifan’s record of denying him a reaction, he can take the risk and have the pretended nothingness spoken. He is tired of hiding. Yifan is selfish, well, then so will he be about just this.
"You know our promises to each other were always more than leaders sticking together, bigger than friends close in age, different from older members of this group wanting to discipline the younger. We can stop pretending. You stopped lying EXO is what you want and I will stop denying that we were more than friends. I am going to write it, black on white, because what use is it to bury it further inside our hearts now? I had feelings for you, I still have and you cannot claim that the way you let me hold you or the ways you pressed your lips against every spot of me that seemed appropriate means you felt any less. We both know it, even if none of us ever dared speaking the scary word: Love. I love you, even now. And you love me, at least you did and you showed me without words. I know I do not exaggerate, do not read something into what we were. The day before you left you held me tighter than ever before and I thought I would explode. It was a happy day until the day after. Were you saying goodbye? Or did you want to tell me that we can no longer continue in our gray area? About that I am not sure.
But right now, Yifan, clearly you don’t want me. While I hurt for the members, this is what hurts me the most. That you are not here anymore and I cannot even hold onto the love we don’t dare saying exists. Me too, I question what I am to you.”
"Joonmyeon?" Kyungsoo asks softly behind him and hurriedly he shields the words from being viewed, the other arm going up to wipe the tears he allowed to fall.
“Joonmyeon” Kyungsoo repeats, now a hint angrier “I know that you are not fine, everyone knows. Stop masking it and please talk to one of us. Okay?”
“I can’t.” Joonmyeon refuses and hears Kyungsoo sigh heavily.
“Look, Yifan was the person you trust the most and it’s okay to feel betrayed-“
“That’s not it.” Joonmyeon grits out and turns around in his seat. Kyungsoo stares at him surprised.
“You guys don’t understand and until I don’t know about him, I can’t let go. Just give me time. I’m not even sure if I can ever speak about it to any of you at all.”
“You think the members will allow you to eat everything inside until you get severely depressed, don’t you? Well here’s some news: I will make sure to pester you until you open up and I don’t care if that’s insensitive, I worry about you.”
With those words Kyungsoo leaves the room and Joonmyeon feels like crying more. He hates Kyungsoo being upset, especially with him.
"So this is it. This is what I think and feel and quite frankly I’m tired of crying over you. This is your last chance. Reply to me, let me at least know what you feel, let the members know what they are to you. If not then I’ll do what’s best for me and forget everything there ever was. I’ll erase everything. Decide for yourself if that is a threat to you or if this attempt of communication, too, returns to sender.
Joonmyeon reads the letter over a few times and decides against editing anything. With calm hands he puts the folded piece of paper into an envelope addressed to Yifan and puts that one into a bigger one with his parents’ sender address and Yifan’s law firm as recipient. It slowly get warmer outside, but his hands shake like they are frozen as he drops the envelope in the letter box right around the corner.
Two weeks nothing happens and Joonmyeon makes half the decision that he clung onto Yifan and everything they meant long enough, but a grain of hope remains alive in his heart and mind, refusing him the finality of a decision.
“Joonmyeon, you received a letter from a law firm. Is something up? Should we worry?” Joonmyeon’s mother tells him over the phone in the middle of the third week. His hand grips the phone tighter at her words and he takes a deep breath. An answer, finally. But no, he should not hope too much. It could just be the letter returned and still sealed.“No. Everything is fine. I tried to contact a client of theirs. I’ll pick it up tomorrow.”
The letter turns out to be the size of a parcel, a thick one on top of it. When Joonmyeon opens it, a total of 11 envelopes fall out. Each has the name of a member in front and Joonmyeon sorts them by age and puts them aside before leaning the one for him against the batch.
First he narrows it, narrows the English “To my Joonmyeon” and wonders if the intimate addressing makes him happy, because none of the members had their name written with a possessive pronoun. Yifan has always been unnecessarily cheesy. Eventually curiosity wins over fright and Joonmyeon opens the envelope. The paper smells like Yifan’s aftershave and is covered in scribbles on both sides.
"To my Joonmyeon
I love you. I have loved you and I do love you and I deny nothing of it. Don’t say I don’t want you anymore. I do. This is important, you must understand this, foremost. I love you even though you are rightfully angry at me and hurt, even though I never told you.”
God, he is cheesy. Normally Joonmyeon would give Yifan one of his disapproving glares, but they are not in the same place and he is mostly choking on his own emotions. Mutual, the feeling is mutual and Joonmyeon is dysphoric, because knowing now still means they cannot be together.
"I made this decision. I made it against the company and for finally doing what I love unrestrained. This is not a choice against EXO as whole. I was happy with everyone for a long while, but being entertainer as part of EXO doesn’t make me ultimately happy. I won’t lie and you know it is true, they did not give me the opportunities they promised and I was unhappy. You felt it. You knew. I know you’re surprised about me making such a firm decision, but I couldn’t take it anymore. By now all my claims from the company should be clear; I don’t need to lay them out for you again.”
It stings because Yifan is right. Joonmyeon had seen the signs, but he had thought Yifan would stay because everyone meant that much to him. Eleven people are a reason to stay, no?
"I wish I could have told you…you must believe me…but I felt that it would have been selfish of me to tell you and ask for keeping it secret. To ask for even more, for having the intimacy we did not dare to have would have been even more selfish. I would have been happy to be with you just once like that, but it would have bruised and hurt you more than leaving you clueless. I sneaked kisses in the dark, you sneaked them back. This is what I cling onto when I become aware just how essential seeing you every day became for my life. The other members made me feel lonely sometimes, but never you. Like a fool I miss all 10 of them anyway.
I feel about the members just as I did before leaving. They are my friends and I miss them terribly, each and every single one. That’s why I wrote everyone a personal letter with a request to take care of each other. I hope they will read them, although they should not feel forced to. Jongin can keep my video games, I told him in his letter. My beauty products will expire eventually, please give Sehun something else. I wrote him to go to you because I am sure you sacked everything belonging to me.”
Joonmyeon snorts at the sentence, yet feels caught. Yifan knows him that well after all.
"I’m not sure if the members noticed that I took a possession of each. A plectrum, a less liked cap, a random doodle, a disregarded khol, things like that. Maybe it was rude of me to touch everyone’s things without permission, but I just needed a piece of everyone to take with me. I took one of your rings and left one of mine instead. Even if it is blunt of me to ask, I’d be happy if you wear it some time. Everything I left is yours. Keep it or throw it away, I leave it up to you what to do.”
Joonmyeon abandons the piece of paper for a moment and hastily rips the lid of his jewelry container off. It takes him mere seconds to find an unfamiliar piece and when he fishes the ring out of the box to hold it under the light, he almost sobs. Yifan left him his favorite ring. Joonmyeon slides it onto his ring finger only to laugh weakly at the unfitting size. It does not matter. Another finger will do.
“What I hope you can do for me is to do these for the members: have Midnight ramyun with Kyungsoo, joke around with Jongdae, and hug Tao because he likes hugs even when they are awkward. Luhan will speak if you bring up concern about Minseok acting like he has to take the role as M’s leader. Tell him ridiculous plans to cheer Minseok up, he’ll take over for you and that way Minseok will loosen up too. Make sure that Minseok knows he is not obliged to pick up where I left. I wrote it to him, but I don’t know if he will believe me. For Chanyeol, Jongin and Baekhyun random hugs will do. Yixing… you must give him time, but try to do things with him. Of course any kind of practice is good, but take him shopping or out for lunch, or smuggle yourself into a theater with Chinese movies. He’ll know what you’re doing, but appreciate it quietly. Sehun seems to fare well, but when he seeks you out on his own don’t reject him, alright? He has his weak moments when he needs a shoulder.”
Joonmyeon sighs. It is very Yifan to give him a guide to reach the members. Desperately he wonders how he is supposed to figure all these things out in the future.
"Lastly I want you to know this is not your fault. I know you. I know that you have the twisted thought that you were not enough to make me stay. Listen, Kim Joonmyeon, this is not your fault and doesn’t mean you didn’t love me enough or I didn’t love you enough. Let me be frank, even if the words hurt. There is no way we will be together the way we wish to be. Neither of us will have the guts to tell their parents, to come out and confess nor will staying together repressed make us happy. Yes, it kills me to not see you every day, but it also killed me that every touch could have been too bold, too telling and bring us in trouble. I don’t know if all the members could have accepted us. I want to love you freely and unashamed, but we are entertainers. We can’t love like this.
I left, because I neither could do what I love, nor love who I love. This is cruel on you, but I hope it takes the burdensome secret from your shoulders. I don’t demand of you to keep loving me. I will not hold you accountable for what you feel for me right now to stay the same in the future. What matters is that you know how much I love you and that I will now at least do the things I love, even if I can’t share them with you. You don’t need to understand it, but I am almost sure when time passes you will see that I ended a work relationship, but not the friendships and us.
My lawyers have orders to give you any of my personal information you ask for. I put my new phone number at the bottom seeing how the company phone naturally is blocked. Call me some time. I miss your voice. I also miss your morning hair, how you fit into my arms perfectly and how rough the back of your hands feel. Even your scolding…I miss it. Don’t neglect and punish yourself for my actions by starving, sleeping less and bending under the company’s pressure to your disadvantage. When time comes around don’t hesitate to use my example to pressure the company into better conditions for you. That goes for the other members too.
I am sorry. For the pain, for the pressure, for the confusion and for the doubts I caused. I apologize for them. There is no turning back now, however. We both know the reality. I cannot come back once I turned away. Please be the best leader EXO has ever had. To me you always were anyway.
I love you, Kim Joonmyeon.
Joonmyeon does not want to think. Not now at least. Instead he takes the batch and finds the remaining 10. He hands the letters out like a secretary, telling each member the standard explanation “I wrote to Kris, he wrote a letter for every member back. Here is yours, if you don’t want to read it, hand it back to me and I will send it back to him.” and ignores the look Kyungsoo spares him with. The red blotches in his sclera give him away. To his luck Kyungsoo is too engrossed with ripping the envelope open and he leaves him there.
Joonmyeon manages to distribute the letters in peace before he withdraws to his room. He is a little surprised when bit by bit the members enter his room and give him a hug before leaving again. Yifan’s letter is in front of him, back in its envelope.
Kyungsoo is the last to come to him. He, too, gives Joonmyeon a hug before he nudges him lightly and settles on the bed.
“He told us to do that, you know.”
Joonmyeon immediately knows he means Yifan. It hits him like lightening when he realizes that every letter has been read. Insanely he feels pride for making this possible.
“Now are you going to tell me?”
“Can you handle it?”
“What, you mean the fact that Yifan and you were always a little different from close than any of the members? Do not take me for an idiot, Kim Joonmyeon.”
Kyungsoo snarls lightly while giving him a pointed look.
Joonmyeon is on the bed and burying his face in Kyungsoo’s neck within the blink of an eye. For a moment he feels safe and so Joonmyeon hiccups more than whispers the secret into Kyungsoo’s ears. Kyungsoo’s arm wraps around him tighter as he assures him that it is okay and no one would ever know. Joonmyeon cries a little more at the acceptance and it takes him a while to calm down. He does not even notice when Jongdae joins their impromptu cuddle session and cries a little along. Kyungsoo is the first to speak again.
“We are EXO. This is not going to stop us. This will make us stronger and make us grow beyond the things we can currently do. We will be the name in everyone’s mouth, whether they love or hate us. Yifan is going to do his own thing and he will do it well. For now let’s work towards beating him in any award show category that we and he can possibly get nominated for.”
Jongdae snickers and nudges him friendly with his foot, smiles growing on everyone’s face. Joonmyeon thinks he might be able to do this on his own after all. It will be exhausting at times, but when has it ever not been? He endured many years of training, this is his dream and he gives everything for it. Even Yifan. But that is okay, because Yifan gave him for his dream. They are even.
Later that night he has reread the letter several times. Joonmyeon still blinks tears from his eyes when he notices the faint, blurred and small addition at the bottom of the page beneath Yifan’s number. He feels like Yifan tried to erase the ink, but with a little squirting of his eyes he can make out the words.
P.S. Is it selfish of me to hope that you will foolishly keep loving me?
Joonmyeon unlocks his phone and dials.