pairing: yunho x heechul
summary: 7 years later...
warnings: cross-band. maturity. chronic illness. this is not a prediction of health or lack thereof, merely a story. it was hard to write.
x-posted to writing journal
You're 30, this year, and you can pass for 20 on a good day (they tell you), if the cameras don't get close enough to spot the tiny lines fanning from the corners of your eyes, or the way the veins in your hands are a little more prominent than they used to be. Some of it's the clothes, you think--other people plan your closets for you, these days, and if sometimes you miss the colorful hats and bright shoes, at least you can look in a mirror and see someone who looks successful and collected and altogether quite good, if a bit femme for your tastes. They still tease you for being the prettiest one on the show, sometimes, and the perky little girls in their miniscule skirts can't decide whether to look envious or respectful.
You're 30, this year, and your lover is 27, but looks closer to 40. Maturity looks good on him, mind, but the sprinkling of silver hairs at his temples started young and the lines in his face are deeper than they ought to be. Running your fingers over his shoulders and arms (they are sculpted from years of rigorous activity), over smooth skin with caramel undertones, you can almost forget the cold sweats that wake him up some nights, groaning in pain as his legs twist and his joints lock. You can almost forget the tears he tries to hide when you're braced awkwardly on the edge of the bathtub, helping him sink into the hot water for a few minutes of relief as you both wait for the painkillers to kick in.
It's hard for you to watch people dance, anymore. You can't look at them, the good ones, without remembering the way he moved under the lights like his world had condensed to the tips of his fingers and the balls of his feet and nothing else mattered. You can't watch the young groups perform without remembering what it felt like when you were all so invincible it hurt. He can't watch them at all, you think. He changes the channel every time, and you say nothing about it.
He's been successful in his own way--a name a generation remembers never hurt his legal practice, and studying gave him something to pour his obsessive need for perfection into when his world collapsed around him. He tried to coach dancing, briefly, not long after everything fell apart, but it only lasted a week before the burning, raging hunger in his eyes outgrew his control and he terrified a trainee into hysterical tears with his explosion. A friend at the company who knew you both called you, that day--you rushed home from the studio to find shelves overturned, books scattered, and him huddled in the narrow space between your bed and the wall, making a sound like a wounded animal. Your cat refused to come out from under the couch until the next morning.
There were days you were afraid to leave in the morning, afraid of the hollowness in his gaze as he stared out the window, afraid that you would return to find a note and a cold body. There were days you ransacked the apartment, threw away all the alcohol, and hid all his prescriptions, only to put them back an hour later. There were days you walked out, went to a friend's house, and cried yourself blotchy and hoarse because you just couldn't deal, but you always came back, eventually.
He never uses the chair at the office or during his rare television appearances--his pride is as keen-edged as it ever was. He has a splendid black cane with a silver knob in the shape of a lion's head, for those. It was a gift from his friend, who laughed (a little embarrassed) and said it made him think of Hogwarts and that he ought to be a Gryffindor if he were anything at all. He walks well, with it, if slowly... with such precise control that one would almost expect him to break into a dance mid-step. You are forever a little bit (dry-mouthed, clammy-palmed, white-knuckled) afraid that some unthinking, nostalgic host will see him walking so smoothly and ask him to show off his moves, for old-times' sake. They have no way of knowing that on the days when he cannot walk well with it, he will not leave the house at all.
You've become good with your hands, your body in general. You think, sometimes, that some of his grace, some of his physical awareness and control, has somehow rubbed off on you. You don't dance anymore, of course, but when the muscles in his legs are knotted and cramping, your fingers seem to know where to go, where to press and pull and stroke to release the tension that makes his breath come in sobs. Perhaps he's affected your acting, as well, because you've certainly learned how to smile convincingly and project an aura of calm no matter what rage or pain you may be feeling. And perhaps you had to experience that rage, that pain, in order to know how to portray it convincingly on screen. You have depth, now, they say.
Things have changed in the industry, bit by bit. You and he are the pink elephant in the dining room that nobody talks about, but you think it is better than being vilified or turned into a laughable caricature of yourselves. It isn't as if people can fail to notice that he never appears in public without you by his side, that every award you've won, he's been in the first row of the audience (unless he was in the hospital at the time), that he takes the cane in one hand and your arm in the other, and you support him perhaps as much as the cane does. No one has, as of yet, had the nerve to approach you with a homosexual role--you don't count the part of the transgendered woman who became a man, because your costar was female and you are indubitably male.
You sing him to sleep, sometimes. He has always said he loves your voice, and you released a short album a couple of years ago mostly due to his encouragement. It was the hardest work you can remember putting into anything in a long time, perhaps, but you feel nothing when you hear it now. All of the emotion, you think, is tied up in the nights that you let him rest his head in your lap while you thread your fingers through his hair and sing older songs, sometimes even his own. The last time you ever heard him sing was the last time you saw him dance, the last time before he had to fold his dream up and put it away. You aren't sure whether you keep singing in some subconscious hope that someday he will join in, because you miss the low, imperfectly rich sound of his singing voice, but you think your heart might break if he did.