[pg] changmin-centric; ot5
He goes to sleep twenty-one, wakes up fifty-three; he counts backward from there
53 He remembered falling asleep on the seventeenth of February, the night before his twenty-second birthday. But when he woke to a subtle dash of sunlight curling over his eyelids, he realized he had been sleeping for a much longer time than that.
The calendar pinned to the hallway said that it was the eighteenth of February, 2041; it was his fifty-third birthday.
The apartment was empty save for a few pieces of worn furniture here and there, movies he had never even heard of falling one by one in alphabetical order in a tidy rack. He smiled at the organization, knowing that it was Yoochun’s fault for making him this way. There were pictures of his friends from childhood that he must have kept in touch with tucked in frames along the mantle, and then other photographs taken of the band he was once happy to be part of.
It was everything he’d have in the future, and even though he should know that he had children—grandchildren even—he felt discontent to think that there was nothing left of a life he once lived. He slumped into an armchair, smelled the faint tint of cologne that he was sure even in this life was not his, and tried not to think too much of anything. He breathed a sigh into open air, the tightening of his heart painful in his ribcage.
“Changmin,” a voice called from the entryway, one he knew all too well. He heard the shuffling of feet and his heart sped up at the thought that there was something familiar in this scary future. “Changmin, I’m home.”
The other man reached the seated figure in the armchair, gentle smile on his face, and Changmin began to wonder if it was healthy for a fifty-three year old man to have his heart beat so fast. He shrugged the matter off when the other bent down slightly to kiss his cheek; a feeling of nostalgia washed over him because he swore he felt this same brush just the day before, he had to have felt it then.
“Happy birthday,” Yunho said in a feather light whisper, eyes old but still just as bright as they were thirty years before. Changmin found his breath and an anchor to hold on to. He closed his eyes. “Happy birthday.”
47 Time went in reverse and before he knew it he was forty-seven, still in the same apartment, except living on his own this time without Yunho there to kiss him a little past noon with a smile on his face. His heart sank into the quiet of the apartment, tucked itself into a corner of the bookshelf and dwindled away.
He found that listening to old songs by them could still make him swell with pride, and he swallowed thickly when he heard Jaejoong’s voice in Wasurenaide; he wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and wondered why.
“Reliving the glory days?”
Changmin nodded, smiling through biting his lip, and Junsu came forward to give him a tight hug. He smelled like yesterday and a faded scent of country air; Changmin let the feeling envelope him. Yoochun broke through the entryway, snow tangled in his hair and a stale waft of cologne staining his clothes; he grinned and waved around cups of ramen. Knew exactly the way to his heart, just like old times.
“Still not eating right,” Yunho muttered to himself, tripping over Yoochun’s bags, and settled himself down long enough to tug Changmin’s newly aged body into the lightest of squeezes. “I should have known.”
“Never expect more,” he said with a wide grin, taking his time in memorizing them like this, hair grayed and wrinkles formed. They were still young at heart. He took Junsu’s hand in his own and looked at the door, waiting for one more. “Is Jaejoong late?”
Junsu’s hands fell away and Yunho’s eyes shifted to their feet; something in Yoochun changed and he left the room to seek solace on the balcony, a slight hesitancy in his steps. Changmin’s breath caught somewhere in his chest; he already knew, even before Yunho’s voice met his ears, saying, Jaejoong died five years ago. Don’t you remember? but he doesn’t remember, and he doesn’t want to think about it.
“Hey,” Yoochun whispered when the younger tread lightly toward him, hanging off the edge with a bent cigarette dangling from his fingers, lit but not smoked. “I know it’s hard to think about; damn it, I can’t get him off my mind sometimes. It’s like he should still be here.”
Changmin slumped against a bony shoulder, worn from age and heartache; he took the cigarette from his friend’s fingers, brought it to his lips, puffed, and pulled away. “You loved him.”
Yoochun’s arms came around him then, tears shimmering in the soft white light of streetlamps ahead, reflected in their eyes; his eyes seem to glow, and he looked more beautiful like this than under any other spotlight in the world. “We both loved him.”
“Yoochun,” Changmin choked, snow gathered on his sleeves and melted in his hair. He pressed a breath of a chilled kiss to the others cheek, shaking; he crumbled. Yoochun held him, whispering “happy birthday” into his hair until Yunho and Junsu joined them, one piece missing but not lost. Changmin squeezed his eyes shut and wished to go back and see Jaejoong’s smile again.
He told them goodbye with his clouded eyes, hugged them once more, and waited for that past to catch him again, just like before.
41 “If you keep sleeping like this, you’ll miss half your life.”
Changmin pulled his body up from the reclined position he had somehow relaxed into on his lonely bed, focused on the shadowy figure silhouetted by the lamp light of his room. He reached his hand out, a younger hand with less wrinkles and shakes, and gasped when his fingers touched the pale skin of someone that was supposed to be dead.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Jaejoong asked, the concern visible in his large eyes, even through the pale light raining down on the back of his dark hair. He propped Changmin’s body against pillows, pressed his hand to a warm forehead. “Well, you’ve managed to work yourself into a fever. And on your birthday no less.”
Words came from his mouth before he even knew what he was saying, and he wondered how he knew this because he was only twenty-two and not forty-one, despite what the calendar said. “I could say the same about you. When are you going to take a break from the military?”
Jaejoong’s hooded eyes grow dim, but he smiled anyway. “I said I’d do this for Yoochun, ever since the accident he hasn’t been quite the same. I’m living his dreams for him.” Changmin frowned, thinking of Yoochun and the limp in his walk; his eyes might have watered a little here. He touched Changmin’s chest with his fingertips, hummed against the pulse of his neck, and grinned against tanned skin before pulling away. “Well, I don’t think you want me to stay here and take care of you.”
Changmin grasped onto the hand on his heart, held it in place, murmured, “I’d like it, if you’d stay,” and Jaejoong’s brows furrowed only momentarily at the affection, but brushed it off as sickness. He kissed back a mumbled word against Changmin’s cheek where stubble gave way to the smoothed arches of his cheeks, smelling cheap soap and shaving cream. The younger softened to the touch, only leaned in closer, and rested his burning face to the others collar bones, bit back a grin and maybe cried.
He’d have this at forty-one; he wanted to make sure he remembered to take it for granted.
He counted the seconds until Jaejoong would say those two words, the rush in his head coming and trying to steal him to another day in another year down the road, backward. He tried to hold on a little longer, enclosed fingers over roughened hands, and wished for a future with Jaejoong.
Jaejoong said it as soon as Changmin’s eyes closed. “Happy birthday.”
35 He had a daughter and he met her for the first time today, even though he’d really known her for her entire nine years of existence.
He wasn’t married to the mother, had never been to his knowledge, but she was beautiful, exactly as Jaejoong had once described his future wife would be and Changmin scoffed that what Jaejoong had said actually came close to truth; he just never knew that beauty to Changmin came in fives and wasn’t easily replaced by sharpened lines and rounded edges.
She wished him a happy birthday in her haste to wipe off the little girl’s sticky fingers, covered with frosting from a cake they’d decorated together. And his daughter hugged him one last time in this life time, her eyes so bright and big, crinkled around the edges with mischief and a heart of gold on the edge of her pink blouse’s sleeve, clipped in place with a safety pin.
She’d snatched his heart right from his chest when she waved from the window in the car.
Junsu stopped by shortly after, just the same, and with clumsy hands as he mussed Changmin’s hair. He laughed and joked about work, mundane job that was hard to fall into after conquering the world years before. But it paid well and he still got to see Yoochun in the office during breaks, and had holidays off, It’s not so bad when you think about. I actually get real vacations without the paparazzi hanging by my window.
Junsu’s hands were sticky as well, but with sunshine, and golden tipped at the ends. They brushed over the tension in the younger’s eyebrows, and tickled down the planes of his face, eyes following the way they moved. He could see so much of the little girl he’d only just come to know in his friend, the way they were free to own the world and shape it as they wanted it.
Changmin began to think that was the reason why he loved her so much, and he might have told Junsu. He’d just smiled into the hollow of Changmin’s cheek, and said he loved him too, but with words unspoken.
He told him happy birthday and called him old man; Changmin pinched his forearm and grinned, smiled.
26 He was twenty-six and growing younger with each moment, body trying to find a place to call home in a past he managed to lose.
Yoochun looked up at him from behind shaggy bangs, smiling cheekily at him in his over-sized sweater and bare feet. His eyes were dark and friendly, beautiful even, and he twisted his fingers in his lap, wringing them against the faded black of the shirt. Changmin sat beside him, and tugged at the elder’s toes, smiled against the palm Yoochun slapped against his lips.
“I thought really hard about what I’d get you for your birthday,” he said seriously, voice light and deep, just like his eyes. He looked up at the ceiling, and continued, “But then I thought that you had Junsu at your disposal for the rest of his pathetic life, and I really can’t top a gift like that. So—”
Changmin quirked a brow, mumbled, “so you didn’t get me anything,” against the coarse palm over his mouth.
“I did,” Yoochun protested, smiled and removed his hand, replaced it with his lips instead. He pulled away grinning like an idiot, and he was one but Yoochun knew Changmin loved him anyway. Even when he came over unannounced and stole his clothes. “Now wasn’t that the greatest present in the world?”
Changmin mulled it over in his head; he pulled on Yoochun’s toes again and leaned forward to kiss the other again. He melted into the touch, and it was only one of them that could make him feel this way. No one else could have him like this, and he resigned himself to that fact ten years previously.
“Easily in the top four,” he whispered against a pale mouth bent into a smile.
He decided that the curve of Yoochun’s chin fit perfectly into the junction between his neck and shoulder. “Happy birthday, Changmin.”
He inhaled; then he let it go.
22 He woke to the feeling of something warm fanning against his ear and the weight of someone’s arm slung across his chest. He blinked against the darkness only to find their four faces gazing at him with weary eyes and bright grins, a little past three in the morning and not quite the break of a new day just yet.
They laid in an awkward tangle of much too long limbs and thumping hearts, bodies twisted in white sheets and pressed tight in the twin-sized bed Changmin called his own during this short stay at a hotel. Jaejoong was the one with his lips to ear, fingers clenching at the loose material of Changmin’s shirt, and eyes glinted in the lamplight Yunho had flicked on from behind the eldest. Yoochun hung over the other side of the bed, snugly fit against Junsu’s back, and Junsu’s arm weighed heavy on his chest, but it felt alright to just leave it there.
“Why are you here?” he asked in a dazed whisper, relaxed into the warmth of the two pressed against his sides and the ones lingering around the edges. He burrowed deeper into the way they smelled and surrounded him; Jaejoong breathed a smile into his neck, shivered. He asked again, softer and lighter than ever.
Junsu shuffled at his side, yawned against the pillow. “Just having a sleepover with our favorite birthday boy.” And Changmin took that answer and locked it into his heart, thumbing over the tanned skin of the wrist atop his chest.
His mind slipped from thoughts of Junsu’s fingers over his lulling heart or Jaejoong’s lips from the pulse point at his neck or the way Yunho’s sock clad foot seemed to stick to the inside of his knee. He simply felt them there, knew they always would be. And just before his eyes shut completely and the sun started peeping over distant skyscrapers, Yoochun leaned over Junsu’s body and pressed a kiss to Changmin’s lips, mumbling, “happy birthday,” in a way that made his head fizz with static.
Twenty-two. Six birthdays and counting in a forever he believed in.
16 Changmin turned sixteen today.
He pulled his legs into the red plastic of the chair, heard a scrape of metal against the marble floor, and tucked his chin into his breast, taking deep breaths into the denim of his jeans. They smelled faintly of lilac-scented laundry detergent and a remnant of a mother’s love; he bit his inner cheek to keep his lips from turning down at the corners.
There wasn’t a need to be sad.
The radios played Hug religiously the past few weeks, and Changmin dunked his head low whenever he heard his own voice break through in song, a sign of his accomplishments and all the effort he had put into being what he was today. He felt the urge to call his parents every time he wanted to break, but held back, watched the other boys that must have been feeling the same, and knew he could not turn back on them. And now that the rise to fame began to steadily take off, he needed someone familiar by his side more than ever.
Except he was kilometers from home and stuffed in a corner of a corporate building, celebrating his sixteenth birthday by counting the seconds between each and every breath he took. He rubbed his nose against the itchy fabric clinging to his knees; the pale skin stung with friction, but the stinging gathering at the rims of his eyes hurt a bit more.
“Hey, the party’s this way,” the boy with the big smile said, gripping a hand between his own, and he tugged Changmin from the corner and into the incandescent light of the building; it reminded him of the sunshine over the backs of his knuckles in the summer. The boy, Junsu, continued with a lilt in his voice, “We can’t celebrate your birthday without you being there.”
Junsu led him down corridors, past businessmen with towering frames and beady black eyes. He dragged him into a quieter area where four boys with varying heights and eye colors rocked on the balls of their feet, waiting patiently for the missing member that made them whole. They took him into a tiny unoccupied office near the back of the building, made him sit against the black leather of the swivel chair, and they looked at him with eyes so wide he thought they would pop.
The quiet boy with the big brown eyes, Jaejoong, smeared icing across the bridge of his nose, pressed his finger to Changmin’s lips, and his eyes were so deep that they smothered him. Yoochun, the boy with the biggest heart in the entire world, sang to him in English upon request, laughed and spoke in accented Korean that caused Changmin to smile. Junsu laughed and made jokes, threw cake across the room despite Yunho’s frantic voice telling him not to. And Yunho hugged him and it felt a lot like the love Changmin had been missing.
Later that night they fell asleep in the open space of their apartment floor, their bodies tucked together in a way that fit with awkward angles and rounded curves. Changmin laid pressed between them all, heart on his sleeve and eyes open to the stars just above the ceiling with the crooked lines running from the light fixture.
He closed his eyes, breathed.