Super Junior/Panic! At The Disco - Kibum/Spencer Smith (with peripheral/past Siwon/Kibum, Pete Wentz/Patrick Stump (Fall Out Boy), Heechul/Donghae, Eeteuk/Kyuhyun)
4,758 words. PG-13. Second person.
You take the first plane out, three weeks after, and Heechul texts you at 5:30 am while you’re sitting in the terminal, waiting for the boarding call.
you’d better not fucking forget us, you asshole. i will never, ever forgive you if you do and he signs it ~h with a little ♥ at the end, and you know. You will miss them terribly, but you can’t be here anymore. You just can’t.
They call your seat ten minutes later, row twelve, seat c, the aisle, and you stare at the text on your phone, and turn it off without answering.
California is everything and nothing that you remember, dry heat and bright sun, layer of smog that brushes over everything like a fine, fine oil sheen. Surface, surface, surface, everywhere, and you ask halting directions in English, and laugh when they talk to you like you are stupid.
Your first job is at a bookstore, local chain, and you spend your time reading. You speak the same five sentences all day, with little variation.
Can I help you with that?
What can I do for you today?
Would you like that gift wrapped?
Yes, I can tell you where that is, follow me.
Have a nice day.
You spend five dollars on an American phrase book, and you learn nothing from it, but you keep it in your back pocket, just in case. You flip through your wallet, realizing that you still have 10,000 won stuffed down in the back, and you don’t have the heart to exchange it.
Maybe one day, maybe, you will go back.
Your manager, Charlotte, smiles wide and open and honest, almost like you. She takes a liking to you, and your bright smile, and your quiet voice.
“Ever been on stage?” she asks you, her voice thick and sloppy and, you think, Southern. She looks confused when you start to laugh, smiling because you can’t help it, rubbing a hand through your hair.
“Yeah,” you say, “yeah, I have.” You remember the bright lights, colored confetti and rigid dance moves, but you don’t tell her.
“Well, if y’know anything about sound or lighting, I have a few friends who’re lookin’ for techs for a tour, and, well. You seemed the type.” She pats you on the back, and you realize that you haven’t been touched by anyone since Siwon kissed your forehead goodbye, and Heechul punched you in the arm.
“I –” you take a deep breath, and you wonder what it would be like, being behind the stage instead of on it. “I’d like that very much, thank you.”
You know a thing or two about sound teching, from hanging backstage and asking questions, from being curious, from needing something to do while KRY or SuJu T was performing, and you were left with nothing but time.
You aren’t fabulous but you learn quickly, and you discover you like it. Level and output and sound variation is mathematical, reliable, and you spend your evenings pouring over the controls, memorizing details.
“Take a break, kid,” they say, but you just smile and shake your head. You want to be good. You want to amazing.
You want to be so different from what you were that they’ll never recognize you.
You meet a kid named Pete at one of the concerts who thinks that you should know who he is.
“Hi,” he says, his eyes thickly lined in black, tattooed arms behind his back, “I’m Pete.”
“Hi,” you reply, flicking a switch, lowering the bass and fiddling with the amp levels. “Kibum.”
“That’s your name?” he asks, and his grin is wide, surprised, and he rubs at one of his wrists with the flat of his hand. He is tan, and beautiful, and you suspect that he is everything he appears to be, and also nothing.
“Yep,” you say, and you smile at him, “that’s my name. Says so on my birth certificate and everything.” He laughs, and he says,
“Y’know, Kibum, I think I like you.” You shrug your shoulders and check the levels again.
Pete introduces you to Patrick, who shakes your hand and asks you where you’re from.
“Seoul,” you say. “Korea.” His eyes widen, and he nods, his eyes flickering toward Pete. You watch the way Pete stands behind him, and you know. You’ve seen it before.
“Need another job when the tour’s over?” Pete asks, and you grin and shrug.
The new tour is louder, longer, dustier, and much, much more crowded. You sit in the back during rehearsals and watch the bands practice in new spaces, and you think you realize just how big the United States actually is. Long roads that go everywhere and nowhere, wide open spaces filled with nothing but grass and dirt and air. You look out the van window during drives, and you can’t help but wonder how any place could be so very big, and so empty.
Sometimes you just want to start walking and see how far you can get.
Sometimes you just want to catch the first plane back, and make everything the way it was.
Pete texts you somewhere outside of Houston, Texas, and you almost jump when your phone vibrates. No one has called you since you left, but you’re alright with that.
i hope you like the tour out there. be cool with the guys most of them are friends of mine and are rad so dont be shy.
He uses even worse grammar and punctuation than Heechul does, and you feel the pang of homesickness, but you are still glad that you left.
The second week of the tour, you’re sitting in the audience watching a rehearsal when someone sits next to you. You look over, and the boy smiles, perched on the edge of the chair, twirling his drumsticks in one hand.
“Hey,” you say, “you’re –”
“Spencer,” he says, and he holds out his hand. You aren’t quite used to handshakes, yet, but you know the custom, so you clasp his hand in yours. His grip is firm, dry, not at all tentative.
“I was going to say ‘that drummer from that band’, but yeah.” Your smile exposes teeth, and his is wide and bright.
“That works too. I prefer Spencer, myself.” He pulls his hand away from yours, and splays it across his knee, the fingers of his other still fiddling with his drumsticks.
“Spencer it is, then. I’m not – well, I haven’t gotten all the bands and band members straight yet.” He’s not wearing his stage makeup quite yet, and you wonder how old he is, if he’s younger than you. Not many of them are.
“Really?” he asks, his voice holding a note of surprise, as if he’s used to being constantly recognized. Maybe he is.
“Yeah, but I could tell you the names of just about every Korean pop band in existence. I’m not from around here.” Understatement, you know, but you don’t want to go into it, to talk about Hankyung and Donghae and the rest of them, back in Korea without you.
“Ah,” he says, and he nods, standing. “Well, I have to go get ready for the show. I’ll see you around.” His smile is something you could get used to, addicted to, but you aren’t going to let that happen.
He walks five paces, before turning back to look at you.
“You never told me your name,” he says, a statement and not a question.
“Kibum,” you reply, and you stuff your hands in your pocket.
“Kibum,” he says, as if testing the sound of it in his mouth, on his tongue, and he grins before turning away.
The next time you see Spencer, he’s just about to go onstage, makeup smeared bright and shimmer-light across his temples and down his cheeks, outlining his eyes in flashes of vivid color. You watch him mouth words to himself, fidgeting with his drumsticks, and then, he looks up.
He waves at you, that smile flashing, and you can’t help but wave and smile back.
He waves whenever he sees you, and you don’t stop him.
You get used to the music, used to how far away every touch is, a pat on the back instead of a hug, a grin instead of fingers in your hair. You stop hearing Heechul in your ear in the morning when you wake up, seeing Siwon over breakfast. You stare at your new phone, and you think about calling them, but you never do.
“You’re Kibum,” a voice says from behind you, and you half turn. You’re standing by the coffee machine backstage, taking a break from programming, and you’re not used to people speaking to you this early.
The boy bouncing on his toes behind you is the lead singer of Spencer’s band. You forget his name.
“That’s me,” you say, and you know from his face what the levels should be when he sings, what microphones he uses, how much volume, but you don’t know him.
“I’m Brendon!” He holds out his hand, and his grip is much more enthusiastic, earnest as he pumps your hand up and down. “Spencer said – well, I guess maybe I shouldn’t tell you what Spencer said without his permission. He might, like, kill me; I totally wouldn’t put it past him. But then he’d need a new singer, and that wouldn’t really be cool. Plus, I’m awesome.” He pauses for a second and looks at you, your raised eyebrows and surprised smile and he grins. “I talk a lot.”
“I’d noticed,” you say, stuffing your hands in your back pockets and rocking back on your heels. “I don’t really talk that much.”
“I’d noticed,” he says, and laughs at himself. Maybe at you, too, but you don’t mind. “I have to go, but I wanted to say hi, and you should totally hang out with us sometime.”
You nod, and his grin widens. Without asking your permission, he leans forward and curves his fingers over your shoulder, long, bony fingers that reach almost to your shoulder blade. He leans in, his lips close to your ear, breath stirring your hair.
“You’re really pretty,” he says. “Spencer thinks so, too.”
He leaves, and you pour yourself coffee. Maybe things aren’t as different here as you’d thought.
Later, Spencer comes into the sound booth, sweaty from rehearsal, his t-shirt damp at the collar and sticking to his chest. His hair is plastered to the side of his face, and he brushes it away with the back of his hand, sticking his drumsticks in his back pocket. You want to press your fingers to his cheeks, feel the heat of blood under his skin, the race of his pulse, but you don’t.
“So, Brendon must’ve said something, since he isn’t speaking to me anymore.” His voice is light, his smile amused, and you find him so nonchalant and calm, utterly unaffected.
“Just that I’m pretty,” you say. “And that you thought so too.”
You watch his face for a flicker or anxiety, anticipation, anything, but he just nods his head.
“Yeah, I’d thought so. That bother you?” You are surprised into laughing, thinking about the bites down the side of Donghae’s neck from Heechul’s teeth, Kyuhyun in Eeteuk’s bed early in the morning, Siwon’s lips on the corner of your mouth, alcohol on his breath, his kisses sweet and wet, and everything you’d wanted right then.
“Yeah, no,” you say, wry twist to your mouth mirrored on his face.
“Good,” he says, and leans forward, kissing your cheek, chaste and soft.
You meet Ryan the next day, just after lunch time, and he’s leaning against the wall with his arms crossed, narrow hips and long fingers, messy hair. You stop in front of him, figuring if he has something to say, he’ll say it. The look on his face reminds you of Heechul, brittle, assessing, but there’s also something vulnerable in the set of his mouth, the draw of his eyebrows. He tucks a lock of hair behind his ear, and you see the flash of a tattoo on his wrist, but you watch his mouth when he speaks.
“Spencer’s my best friend,” he says, and you nod. “Don’t fuck with him.”
The last time you had this conversation, it was Heechul with his hands fisted in your shirt, and Siwon’s name on his lips, and your answer is the same.
“I won’t. I wouldn’t.”
It’s Brendon who drags you back to Panic’s trailer, his hand around your wrist, his grip firm, and he’s babbling about Disney movies you’ve never seen, telling you,
“You just have to stay and watch with us, you have to, and Spencer’s too chicken to ask, and Ryan still doesn’t trust you, sorry, and you haven’t even met Jon yet, which means that it’s totally my job. And I take my jobs seriously, because, like, if I don’t, than who will, y’know?”
You nod, and, of course, he can’t see you, but he turns to grin at you, wide and brilliant, and you suppose it doesn’t matter. He knows that your answer is yes, anyway.
Jon is on the couch, flip-flops on the floor in front, and he grins and half waves as Brendon drags you through the doorway. Ryan is sleeping curled up with his head in Jon’s lap, and you can see that vulnerability again, in the skin around his eyes and the purse of his lips.
“Hi there,” Jon says, “you must be Kibum the Hot Sound Tech. I’ve heard a bunch about you.”
You hear Brendon’s strangled giggle from behind you, and Spencer is standing in the doorway with a blush on his face.
“Um,” you say, and Jon starts laughing.
You fall asleep in the wee hours of the morning, listening to them talk. You really don’t mean to, but the tones of their voices are soft and smooth, consonants like sharp angles in their speech, vowels that curve over and flow together, nothing like Korean. You could listen to them talk all night and be happy, but instead you curl up on the floor, and you drown in it.
There’s a hand resting on the small of your back when you wake, warm skin touching you under your shirt, and you don’t remember, at first, where you are.
“Siwon? Please tell me it’s not time to get up, yet,” you say in Korean, and open your eyes to the floor of Panic’s trailer. You roll over, and Spencer is behind you with his eyes open, head propped on one hand, Ryan curled up at his feet, Brendon sprawled over Ryan’s stomach, Jon alone on the couch above them. Everyone is asleep but the two of you, and you remember, you do, that he’s not Siwon, that you’re not in Korea, that he can’t understand you.
“Sorry,” you say, in English, and it comes out slightly slurred and curved in a way you can’t always help.
“What language was that? Korean, right?” he asks, his voice a whisper, hair in his eyes.
“Yeah,” you say, just as quietly, and he smiles at you. You almost want that smile all the time, you want to spread your fingers across his mouth and feel it against your skin, but you don’t.
“Who are you, Kibum?” he asks, and brushes the hair from your forehead so softly that you almost want to cry, and you don’t know how to say I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.
You have your old phone tucked in the front pocket of your backpack, and you keep it charged, just in case, and sometimes you pull it out and scroll through the saved text messages.
free for lunch tomorrow? after rehearsal? I need to talk to you. is Siwon four days after he kissed you for the first time, drunk and elated and everything you’d wanted, then.
don’t fuck this up, kim kibum, and remember, my house at 8, party time is Heechul a week later.
I still have your shirt from rehearsal yesterday. Should I bring it by, or keep it until next time? is Donghae just before the last single, the last single ever, right before everything changed and you had to leave and such an innocuous message shouldn’t mean nearly as much.
You want to remake yourself here, in the image of Spencer’s smile and Brendon’s voice, with the hands of a professional, callused and rough, and you want to forget the crowds at airports screaming your name, the fans who hated you enough to try to hurt you, the phone calls to your apartment saying I love you, I love you, please, love me. You want to be new.
You’re just not sure you can.
“Why are you here?” Spencer asks you, several weeks later and somewhere just north of Chicago. He’s propped up on one of the sound boards, and you’re double checking before show time, listening to the thump of his sneakers as he idly kicks the edge of the metal consol.
“Here as in the United States? Or here on this tour?” you ask, not looking up, although you can feel his gaze against the side of your face, warm and curious.
“As in the US,” he replies, and you wonder if he knows that he’s tapping out a rhythm with his feet, his fingers drumming background.
“Things were – bad. They hadn’t always been that way, but. I had to leave,” you say, eventually, and you shake your head to clear the memory of broken glass under the soles of your shoes, writing in red on the walls and every window, every glass, every mirror broken against the carpet and laying there, sparkling in the dim sunlight. we know where you live it had said, fraud, pawn, blasphemer, we know where you live, and we’ll be back.
You pause, biting your lip as you look over at him, his face serious, eyes on your mouth.
“Ask me again – later. And I’ll tell you.”
You watch Ryan stay carefully sober, and you wonder if he’d be like Heechul, drunk. Glittering and magnetic and everywhere at once with a sly smile and kiss-bruised lips.
“What?” he asks, his voice cautiously monotone, suggesting something defensive and aggressive at the same time, and you shrug, slide lower on the couch. Spencer is off searching for food with Jon and Brendon is singing in the bathroom, loudly. You don’t get Ryan, you don’t, because you want to read him like you read Heechul, but they aren’t the same.
“You remind me of someone I know, but you’re also completely different.” His smile, when he shows it, is two parts wry and one part touched.
“Ah,” he says, and when he stops speaking you can tell he wants to talk and doesn’t know how to start – the clench of his fists and the shift of his weight from one side to the other. “You’re not what I thought you’d be,” he says, eventually.
“How so?” you ask, and you think about your American phrase book, your 10,000 won, your text messages, and you wonder if how you appear and how you are is anything close to similar.
“You smile so much and say so little,” he says, voice slow and measured like he’s painting the words in his mind before he says them, and you remember, then, that all the words are his; every song is his words in Brendon’s mouth. “You’re hiding something, obviously, but I don’t think it has to do with anything here, anymore. And I think you’re going to tell us.” He meets your eyes, and he’s so serious that you don’t know what to say. You open your mouth to speak, and nothing comes out, and you’re saved by Spencer and Jon walking through the door.
“I’m feeling a lack of produce on this tour,” Jon complains, sitting in a chair with a thump. “I’d kill someone for an apple.”
Spencer sits next to Ryan, wrapping his arms around Ryan’s torso and propping his chin on Ryan’s shoulder. He raises an eyebrow at you, and you lift one shoulder in half a shrug. Ryan leans back against Spencer’s chest, and you consider the subject closed, but you know it won’t stay that way forever.
You can’t watch their shows, not really, as much as you’d want to. Too much to do, fine-tuning, and so, instead, you watch them rehearse. You know it’s not the same, just like you knew it back in Korea, dance moves toned down to expend less energy, frequent breaks for water and conversation and Siwon pressing you back against the mirror so that the heat from your back fogged up the glass in a vague outline.
You’re scrolling through text messages, flashes of Heechul and Donghae and Hankyung, Siwon before and after and so you don’t notice Spencer until his hand cups the back of your neck.
“What’re you looking at?” he asks, looking over your shoulder, standing behind your chair. His skin is warm, dry, and you lean back without thinking about it.
“Looking at old text messages. From before I left.” He leans in close enough for you to feel his breath against your jaw, and he asks,
“What does the last one say?”
“That I’m not allowed to forget them. From Heechul,” you say, and you think about Heechul’s face as you’d closed to door to his apartment behind you, the tense line of his jaw, and how when he’d punched you in the arm, his fingers had grasped your shirt, he’d leaned over to whisper it wasn’t your fault, and how you hadn’t believed him.
“Who is ‘them’? And who is Heechul?” Spencer asks, dragging you back to the present, his breath tickling your skin, his tone slightly frustrated.
“Heechul was – sort of my best friend. It’s complicated. ‘Them’ is Super Junior, the band I was in. Well, more of a group than a band, really. There were thirteen of us. Then it went to hell.”
Spencer kisses you first, coming offstage and coming down, he leans over the sound board and his lips are warm against yours, heated from bright lights and movement. You cup his cheeks in the palms of your hands and hold him to you, feeling the flush of his skin, the tacky stick of sweat, his makeup coming off on your fingers, and you pull back far enough to watch him smile at you.
“I’ve wanted to do that since I saw you,” he says. You weave your fingers into his hair and press your forehead to his, and you try not the think of anything.
you said I could ask you later, he texts you, at a truck stop halfway across Ohio.
I did, you text in reply.
I’m asking, he types, come here.
You tell them a story, a true story, of you and Siwon and how you kissed him, and how you wanted him, and how he wanted you. You tell them about Heechul, his wry lips that told you to be careful with him, be fucking careful, and how you weren’t. Neither of you were. You tell them the story of paparazzi pictures released to the press and on the internet (your lips on his in a way that couldn’t be mistaken), of the broken glass that coated the floor of your apartment. Of letters and calls and privacy that you wanted and never had.
You tell them about how Heechul punched you in the face for ruining everything, how he apologized, how everything ended – you, Siwon, the group.
And you got on a plane headed to the United States.
You don’t look at them, any of them, when you finish, but then Brendon’s hands are in your hair, his lips against your ear whispering it’s not your fault, it’s not, and it doesn’t matter if you believe it, because he does. And Spencer’s arms are around your waist, his cheek warm against your shoulder, and Ryan’s kissing your forehead, Jon uncurling your hands from clenched fists, smoothing out your palms.
The tour is over in two weeks, and you don’t know what you’re going to do, then.
They leave you alone with Spencer, and he pulls you with him to his bunk. He pushes you down and slides in next to you, closing the curtains tightly behind, and when you look at him, his expression is so serious. You brush your fingers over his face, across his lips and eyelids, and you say,
“Smile for me, Spencer.”
You don’t like the tone of your voice – thin, drawn, tired. His fingers clutch at your arms, and he smiles, he tries, and you can see that he’s worried about you. His smile is warm under your fingertips, wan and weary and just for you.
You sleep in Spencer’s bunk after that, because he wants you to. You curl up in his blankets and listen to him breathe and try not to find relief in the closed off space, his proximity, what you remember and miss most about Korea – close spaces and closer bodies. You wrap your fingers up in his shirt and feel his breath in your hair, and you’re more comfortable than you’ve been since before you left.
“You should call them,” Spencer says, a week later and almost to the east coast, and you shrug. Ryan is writing in a battered notebook at the kitchen table, and looks up at the sound of Spencer’s voice.
“I don’t know what I’d say.” And you don’t, you really don’t, but Ryan snorts, and Spencer rolls his eyes.
“Yeah right. You’re just scared of what they’ll say,” he says, and you’re – not sure. You want so hard not to be that kid who messed everything up, who didn’t think, who wasn’t careful. You want it to be different here, but you aren’t sure that they’re wrong.
Four days left, and you watch them smile at the thought of home and rest and time off, and you want to curl up, away from them, and not have to deal with it. You don’t know what to do, next. There is no next step; there is nowhere you want to go from here, with them.
You’re not sure if they’ve even thought about it, but Spencer kisses you until you can’t breathe, and you bury your face against his chest.
take me with you, you want to say, but it’s nothing that you could ask of them, of him, and so you hold it close inside you, and you keep it safe.
After the last show, you go into the bathroom backstage at the venue, and you look at your reflection. Your hair is longer, shaggy over your eyes, and your skin is almost tan. You think about your choices from here, to go back to California and its smog and surface, reclaim your bookstore job or move on, somewhere else. You could buy a used car and drive across the country, take in the space and the open and different kinds of air and towns and people. You could beg Spencer to let you stay, but you will never do that.
You turn on the sink, run the water over your hands, cool and smooth, and then the bathroom door opens.
“Are you coming?” Spencer asks, the smile on his face wild and wide, an invitation. The stage sweat drying as he stands under the florescent lights.
You kiss him with your wet hands on either side of his face, sloppy and soft, and you can feel him shiver.
You taste his smile in your mouth, and it’s everything you’d thought it would be.
The bus leaves for Las Vegas in the morning, and you kick your feet outside of Spencer’s bunk. He’s curled up, asleep, behind you, and you pull out your phone. Your fingers remember the numbers, and you listen to it ring, holding your breath. The click as someone picks up, and when you speak, your voice is hopeful and strained and choked.
“Heechul?” you ask, more tentative than you’d ever wish to be.
“Kibum?” he replies, his voice is incredulous, a breath of air you didn’t know you were missing, and, you think, you are going to be okay.