sj: heechul, hanchul
pg, 2480 words
"Have you seen that stupid rumor about how you've requested to terminate your contract?" he says in greeting as Hankyung walks in.
a/n: this is for stephyalexis in response to her request at help_haiti. I wish my writing was better ;~; - but I really hope you enjoy this. ♥
Heechul is the one who finds out first.
Everyone jokes that he's more a netizen than an artist, but the time he spends online certain pays off; he's always on top of all the latest news. Besides, he's always been quick to retort that it was part of his job to know all the latest developments and relationship rumors – he could hardly appear ignorant on air, after all. The fact that he would have been interested in the celebrity gossip anyway was just a bonus.
His initial reaction is shock, followed immediately by disbelief and humor as he dismisses the article as rumor – after all, this was Super Junior-related news, and if anything had happened, surely the members would be the first ones to find out. Scoffing out loud, he mentally plans to write a scathing letter later to the editor of the kpop news site – as himself or an "anonymous friend", he hasn't decided yet.
"Have you seen that stupid rumor about how you've requested to terminate your contract?" he says in greeting as Hankyung walks in two hours later. His feet are propped up on the table as he surfs the net, laptop balanced on his thighs, and his tone is nonchalant as he prepares for laughing incredulity or confused stammers. Instead, there's silence.
He looks up with a frown; instead of greeting him with a kiss like he'd grown accustomed to, Hankyung is still standing in the doorway.
"What's wrong with you, hurry up and come in."
Hankyung opens his mouth, as if to say something, then shuts it again awkwardly. Almost-hesitantly, he walks over and settles himself down next to Heechul.
"I think this is actually the craziest thing they've ever made up about you," Heechul continues, rolling his eyes. "Even worse than that story about how they saw your face in Antarctica even though you were in Asia the whole time." Sitting up, he's reaching for the open bottle of cola Siwon had left sitting on the table when he feels the tension in the arm around his shoulder.
Turning, he catches sight of Hankyung's expression, and something in the pit of his stomach clenches. Ignoring it, Heechul narrows his eyes. "Okay, what's wrong with you?" he snapped. "Why aren't you talking?"
"Heechul, I – " Hankyung stops, giving him a half-desperate look, but Heechul can't afford to be sympathetic right now.
"Hurry up and spit it out."
Hankyung visibly swallows. "It's not a rumor," he finally says.
Heechul stares at him.
"Okay, where's the hidden camera," he says, eyes instinctively scanning the room for the tiny cameras he knows has to be there.
Except it's wrong – everything is wrong. If there's a hidden camera, the whole group would have been in on it. Hyukjae and Donghae should be bursting through the doors right now with the cameramen at their heels, and they would be complaining about another failed attempt to fool their hyung. Hankyung should be complimenting himself for his own fantastic acting, and not standing there looking at Heechul like the world was coming to an end.
"Heechul, please. There is no hidden camera."
The words are quiet and choked out, barely audible over the sound of Kangin laughing in the next room and Ryeowook's music filtering through from upstairs, but it's loud enough. To Heechul, it feels like someone's punched him in the gut.
"If this is a joke, I'm going to kill you later," he said, because he has to make sure.
Hankyung doesn't meet his gaze, and he feels any final vestiges of hopes he'd unconsciously clutched to die out.
Two weeks. Fourteen days. A whole three hundred and thirty six hours, most of which they'd spent in each other's company, and Hankyung hadn't said a word the entire time. Biting back the almost-instinctive anger, he turns to look Hankyung in the eye.
"And when were you going to tell me?"
Hankyung swallows, but doesn't reply. It's enough of an answer for Heechul.
It's not until he's stormed upstairs and locked himself in his room (he ignores Leeteuk knocking on the door asking him what's wrong and Siwon's worried questions) that he realizes his eyes are wet.
Everyone else finds out the next day. Heechul is too tired to wonder if Hankyung had finally broken the news or if the manager had done it on his behalf, but the mood at breakfast is somber. There is no hint of playfulness on Donghae's face, while Ryeowook alternates between completely expressionless and looking like he might break into tears any second.
Heechul almost wishes someone would scream and yell – anything is better than this silence. Normally, he would happily step into the role of the one making the racket, but today, he feels too numb to do anything.
Numb. That was a good word. The feeling permeates their entire dorm, lingering over everyone and everything like cloying perfume or a stifling blanket.
All he wants to do is crawl back into bed, but manager appears to herd them to their respective schedules. Heechul swallows the last bite of his breakfast (the kimchi jjigae tastes like sawdust in his mouth), and distantly wonders how they're going to get through the next few months.
When Hankyung drops by the next afternoon, Heechul is in the middle of updating his cyworld. Kyuhyun immediately stops what he's doing and leaves the room. Heechul considers doing the same for a second before settling on ignoring everyone instead. There's a long awkward silence, in which Ryeowook gives a stilted greeting.
Hankyung does the same before moving towards the empty space on the sofa next to Heechul, as he's always done, but Heechul pointedly puts his feet up and stretches out his legs so that any extra space is occupied. He makes sure his gaze doesn't leave his laptop the whole time.
Hankyung stands there for a minute (Ryeowook mumbles an excuse and wisely exits the room) before making an abortive movement, as if he hadn't been able to decide whether to grasp Heechul's arm or to push Heechul's legs off. "Heechul," he says quietly, after a moment. "I know you're pissed off at me, and you have every right, but please, just let me –"
"Don't, I don't want to see you," Heechul interrupts, and the undertone of steel in his voice is obvious. Hankyung has noticed, he's sure (how could he not, when Hankyung hears every nuance in every word Heechul has ever said?), and he feels something clench in the pit of his stomach at the expression on the other man's face. It almost makes him want to take everything back – but he swallows his words in favour of pretending to check his email.
When the door clicks shut after Hankyung two minutes later, Heechul tells himself that the stinging in his eyes is due to looking at his computer for too long and has nothing at all to do with the other man. Besides, he deserves everything I say, he tells himself, and swallows back the sudden doubt in his chest.
The days pass. Heechul goes to his schedules as usual, but compared to before, the lack of activities is evident. Things feel slower, quieter, and there's a certain hush over the dorms that Heechul doesn't remember ever being there before.
Hankyung hasn't come by the dorms since that day he'd been turned away. Heechul sternly tells himself that that little fact had nothing at all to do with himself, and he really couldn't care less what the other man was up to.
He's always been a fantastic liar, he thinks rather bitterly.
Outside, it is snowing again, the white covering the streets in an unbroken expanse in the early mornings. Heechul shivers, and decides to go dig out that extra sweater from the back of his closet.
It is no colder than usual Korean winters, but he feels the chill down to his bones.
At night – without the body heat he's grown accustomed to – it's even colder.
Management wants them to perform Super Girl.
The manager explains that it would be done in Korean, and so Zhou Mi and Henry wouldn't be participating. Neither would Kibum, who was busy with the acting side of things. Or Kangin, who was still being kept out of the spotlight for a while longer.
No one has to explain why Hankyung wouldn't be onstage.
On the morning of the performance, Heechul opens his eyes but can't feel the motivation to roll out of bed. The thought of having to perform with only so few of the members present momentarily sends a wave of nausea through him, and he has to bite back the bile in the back of his throat. Lying there, he stares up at his ceiling instead, examining the patterns and cracks in the plaster. He fully expects that within an hour, someone will be sent up to drag him out of bed, but for now, he can't bring himself to care.
To his surprise, the next time he looks at the clock, two hours has passed. Everyone should have left already, and yet no one had come to bang on his door. Deciding not to look a gift horse in the mouth, he turns on his side and buries his head back under the pillows, wishing that he could stay there for the rest of his life.
He must have fallen asleep, because the next thing he knows, he's waking to the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs. Judging from the amount of light streaming through the windows, he guesses that it's about two in the afternoon. Undoubtedly, management – or Leeteuk – has had enough of his moping. Swinging his feet to the side of his bed, he sighs, ready to stand up, when the door swings open with a click.
To his surprise, Hankyung storms into the room, hair in disarray and looking as if he'd left his apartment without looking in the mirror. Heechul opens his mouth to deliver a derisive comment, except Hankyung speaks up first.
"Are you alright?" the other man asks, and anything Heechul had been about to say dies in his throat at the obvious worry on the other man's face. "How did you manage to get sick, you never get sick. Do you have a fever?"
Heechul stares at him. "What are you talking about."
Hankyung doesn't seem to hear him, and raises a head to Heechul's forehead instead. The unexpected warmth of the touch sends a shiver through his spine. Heechul forcibly pulls himself away, sitting back down onto his bed.
"What are you doing, I'm not sick!" he snaps, scowl firmly plastered on his face.
Hankyung looks at him in bewilderment. "What do you mean, Ryeowook told everyone you were. Besides, why else are you in bed."
Right, that explained everything. Shaking his head, Heechul makes a silent note to thank Ryeowook later. "I didn't feel like getting up. I guess Ryeowook must have covered for me."
There was an awkward silence. Hankyung looks at him wordlessly, and he doesn't know why but Heechul can't get the image of the worry that had been on the other man's face out of his head.
The room suddenly feels too small, and for some reason, his heart is thudding – a wild beating in the center of his chest. As Hankyung opens his mouth, Heechul suddenly thinks that he has to get out of here. Standing up abruptly, he determinedly pushes past Hankyung and heads for the door.
He's almost out of the room when a firm grip around his upper arm stops him short. The touch is warm – unnaturally so. Heechul thinks there must be something wrong with Hankyung when he himself is so very cold.
"Heechul," Hankyung says, sounding slightly unsure. The fact that this is the first conversation they've had since that day is obvious to them both, and other man clears his throat. "I- I have to say this. Please."
Heechul thinks about leaving the room and slamming the door behind him. He thinks about covering his ears and burying himself back into bed, about kicking Hankyung out of his room because he doesn't want to deal with this – not yet, not now – because he doesn't know what he wants. No, scratch that – he does know, he wants everything to go back to the way it was a few weeks ago, before all this had happened – but he knows just as well that that's not going to happen.
He also knows that he's tired, and a little voice in the back of his head admits that he's missed Hankyung. Somewhere along the way in the years since debut, he'd lost the ability to be self-sufficient.
He sighs, letting his arm go limp and the breath slide out of him with a whoosh.
"I know you're angry at me," Hankyung says, looking at him carefully. Apparently, he sees something in Heechul's expression because his body relaxes, just a little. "I know I should have said something to you – but. I didn't know what to say, or how to say it. I meant to – I really did, but every time, I ended up saying something else or changing the subject. I was wrong, and for whatever it's worth, I'm sorry." He looks pleadingly at Heechul, his gaze tentative and earnest all at once. "Forgive me? Please?"
It's common knowledge that as long as Heechul asks, there are few things Hankyung wouldn't do for him. What most people don't realize is that it's a two way street, and that it's no different the other way around.
"If you ever do something like that to me again, I'm never going to forgive you," Heechul says, and his voice doesn't come out as solidly as he wishes it would.
The apology in Hankyung's eyes and the warmth of his arms is answer enough.
In the end, Heechul never does make it to the performance.
Life goes on.
Heechul goes to his schedules and updates his cyworld and plays with his cats. He camwhores backstage and takes selcas with Sulli and complains to the world (and Hankyung) about how he's getting old.
Sometimes, he's still plagued with the knowledge that this might be it, that this might be the end. Everything they'd worked so hard for is balanced on a precipice, and the thought that the slightest decision or action from management could end it all still sends his heart into double time. But then Hankyung would bring him things on demand and let Heechul hog the blankets at night and roll his eyes at every other statement Heechul makes, and Heechul thinks that whatever happens, maybe it'll be okay after all.
"Yah, make me your fried rice later," he says, and hides his smile at Hankyung's halfhearted whine.
fic started: February 05, 2010
fic finished: February 27, 2010