Team: Future (yep, fresh from olymfics)
Fandom: EXO (specifically EXO-K)
Summary: “A scattered dream that's like a far-off memory... a far-off memory that's like a scattered dream... I want to line the pieces up... yours and mine.”
― Shiro Amano
Joonmyun is disconnected from his reality as it slowly breaks down, until there is nothing left.
Author's Note: A gigantic thanks to the most glorious of betas, I honestly wouldn't have gotten through if it weren't for you (and for the rest of my amazing team!). You guys are all so great and I appreciate you all so much <3
Prompt Used: 2AM - I Wonder If You Hurt Like Me
"You need to get ready, you have to go."
Something soft brushes his cheek, and he blinks and he's on stage and his hair is curling on his forehead, giving him goosebumps.
He doesn't like it, he feels exposed amongst the millions of bare faces and he swears to God he hears a girl mutter to her friend, "Oppa looks so good without makeup.” He uses all his strength not to scoff and instead stares at Baekhyun, who doesn't seem to have the same problem as he does.
Baekhhyun is smiling boldly and Joonmyun softly reminds himself that surely it's just an act—just like him, Baekhyun hasn't slept for three days practicing for their comeback. None of this is real. None of this.
He’s backstage now. It’s a little slower than before—the seemingly constant whir of kohl and pressed powder settling into a soft smudge of gauze and tired eyes.
Joonmyun takes a moment; he has so few these days. He runs his fingers along the wall, feeling its faults, the rises and falls that make up the smooth off white appearance. He seems out of place with the palm of his hand pressed against the perfect imperfection, so base and crude. The fluorescent light from above dances across his flesh, and in turn he takes several seconds on loan from an impatient Sehun to glance at the garishly lit skin pulling over muscles and bone, to marvel at how there really isn’t much difference between him and the solid block of colour and cement before him.
“Hyung." Sehun’s hand is on his wrist, his thin fingers encircling and trapping; he looks like he wants to leave. Joonmyun shakes his head—Sehun wants to leave, he wants to run, sturdy but secretly flightly Sehun doesn’t want to be here but something in his eyes changes, maybe the shine dulls because instead of telling him to hurry up, Sehun’s hand trails up to Joonmyun’s shoulder with a light squeeze for flourish. “Are you okay?”
Joonmyun’s hand falls from the wall to his side, fingers coiling into his palm as his knuckles brush the stiff fabric of his pants. “I don’t know how to answer that.” As soon as the words leave his lips and drift between the small space between his lips and Sehun’s ear, he hopes those seven syllables fade away into an unheard oblivion.
When Sehun bats heavy lidded eyelashes with barely feigned interest, Joonmyun realises his wish for obscured words may have been granted. He shuts his eyes tight and counts to thirteen and he’s on the road and Jongin’s elbow is pressing into his sternum and the city lights are getting brighter.
There’s a low conversation buzzing between Chanyeol and Baekhyun, and Joonmyun thinks Baekhyun might be a little closer than altogether necessary as he watches the younger’s lips press against the column of Chanyeol’s throat. Joonmyun thinks about warm breath and styrofoam cups until even the brightest of lights fade to black.
The dorm is loud, louder than it used to be before Kyungsoo left. Nothing’s really different or out of place, the music is just louder and the velvet glow of night has turned silver in the wake of Sehun’s soft running laptop.
“Lu is on,” Sehun informs Chanyeol absentmindedly, but Chanyeol isn’t paying attention so instead Sehun directs a very pointed glance in Jongin’s direction. It is as though he can feel the way his eyes shoot open and Sehun’s gaze burns across his profile. He smiles softly, hair falling flatly into his eyes as he replies curtly, “Tell him I say hey, okay?”
His hands dart across the darkly illuminated keyboard deftly, his tongue darting out to press harshly against his bottom lip as he backspaces an excruciatingly bad spelling error. Jongin snorts from next to him as he reads over his shoulder and Sehun elbows his ribs roughly, closing the lid of his laptop and sitting up.
Soft padding of feet and a shut door and Joonmyun watches as the screen fades from an unearthly white glow to nothing but murmurs of blue blinking lights; it isn’t much light but it’s enough for him to see shadows in the gloom of the evening. The air doesn’t feel cold however, no sudden shift or apprehension snaking through his intestines, so he decides it’s safe to leave Sehun with nothing but the trill of the refrigerator and the buzz of Chanyeol’s voice as he rolls out slurred English in time to a beat only he could hear.
Time distorts and the sun is dreaming of rising, biting onto the horizon and dousing it in a watery ochre glow. The clouds are high in the sky, threatening rain, promising so much more.
Joonmyun is drowning in the fresh air, gravel screaming beneath lumbering footsteps as Sunghwan rushes the five of them out what they have come to call home. It’s cold outside, icy chills of softly falling rain spike through his skin as watches Chanyeol pull on the most hideous sweater he has ever seen.
“What is that even?” Jongin winces, halting in his steps to turn and stare at him. Chanyeol only smiles in a manner that doesn’t quite reach his eyes. Baekhyun mentions he looks like he’s baring his teeth and really Joonmyun couldn’t agree more.
Sehun decides to mix up the delicate hierarchy of the car by slipping into the front seat and it’s somewhere between flying past Gangnam and coming to a complete halt en route to Incheon that a low voice mixes in with the soft tinkle of the radio host’s.
“I don’t want to do this anymore,” Sunghwan states, eyes trained on the license plate of the beaten up Hyundai in front of them. “I can’t do this anymore.”
Nobody says a word, though really the silence says it all.
A few months blur past and Joonmyun finds himself being woken up by the smoky rasp of Sunghwan’s replacement. Her name is Park Kyungmin and her fingertips are callous and rough on his skin as she shakes his shoulder.
“Kid, wake up.”
Joonmyun stares groggily into space, watching dust motes lethargically drift through the rays of the early morning sun. The clicks of Kyungmin’s heels are a dreary metronome by the time he has pulled himself upright, the creaking of his bones joining the lacklustre beat. The crescendo of the morning‘s melody is reached by a deep groan from Baekhyun’s room.
It is silent when they eventually reach the practice room, at least silent to Joonmyun. He sits cross legged, knee resting against Jongin’s thigh comfortably as Chanyeol sways from side to side in front of Baekhyun in some strange attempt to hypnotise him.
A broken beat fills the room and Jongin is up, voice sounding foreign and far off as he softly sings to himself. He offers Joonmyun his hand and pulls him up and they’re lost until the sunbeams surrender the skyline to the celestial city lights and they’re half way to the moon—or home, whichever comes first.
Another few weeks breeze by and this time the voice that rouses Joonmyun from his dreamland is soft and reedy. He doesn’t remember her name, but she doesn’t really seem to mind as she ushers him out of the dorm, tossing a jacket over Baekhyun’s shoulders and out into the rush of Cheongdam-dong.
Joonmyun’s staring at the almost empty streets, watching as sparse smatters of people waltz by when he hears his name being called, and soon he finds himself in the office of his CEO. It takes him a moment to remember his name—Kim Youngmin. Kim Youngmin. Eventually it rolls off his tongue, followed by stuttered honorifics and he’s bowing low and being offered a seat.
“Joonmyun-ah.” The CEO smiles as he adjusts the strap of his watch. “You’ve been with us for a long time haven’t you?”
Joonmyun nods, and soon he finds himself standing in the obnoxiously white hallway feeling rather out of place, and violently conflicted. Before he has a chance to catch his breath or grab at the tail ends of his thoughts, a voice whisks him out of his mind.
“Hyung,” and Joonmyun feels his heart shatter and rebuild itself as he turns and meets the wide eyes of Do Kyungsoo.
“You’re still alive,” Joonmyun says as he pulls Kyungsoo in closely. He’s skinnier than he remembers. Kyungsoo pats his forearm as he steps back and offers a weak smile.
As they stand, stains of colour on a bare canvas, Joonmyun loses himself once more and Kyungsoo watches, unsure of how to help him in his dramatic fits of feeling. Joonmyun swears he can hear their pulses, their heartbeats—out of sync reminders that tie him to the moment—though they fade away fast. The conversation dies down into light banter, though Kyungsoo’s every word hits Joonmyun like Thor’s hammer.
“Are you getting enough sleep? Your eyes seem larger than usual.”
“More sleep than I was getting two years ago.”
It’s been two years. The realization knocks the breath right out of his lungs.
“It was good to see you, Joonmyun ah.”
Joonmyun falls asleep with the bitter taste of words left unsaid that night.
The days are trickling by now until there is no voice at all, only the obnoxious siren of a phone alarm to prick life into Joonmyun’s veins. It’s one of those rare days where he’s not in demand, at least not for a few hours anyway.
He stretches out lazily and grapples for his phone, fingertips assaulting the screen in search of the snooze button. Eventually (after a plaintive cry from Jongin) Joonmyun locates it, silencing his phone and dropping it on to his stomach.
It is 6.29 AM, though his phone has inexplicably decided it is March 5th 2006. He stares at the screen before tapping out the number of his mother and putting the phone to his ear. One ring. Two rings. Disconnect.
At 6.32 AM, Joonmyun closes his eyes and goes back to sleep.
He feels peculiarly freed when Sehun informs him one morning that he’s leaving.
"What are you going to do now?" Joonmyun asks, searching for something in the younger’s face, some sign of remorse—some sign of feeling that would crack through his overly neutral façade.
"Live," Sehun states, simply enough.
Time is running away from them, away from Joonmyun. Reverie is taking over his reality and soaking him in doubt. He almost wants to run, but he doesn't know where to go or if there is even a place for him out there anymore.
Joonmyun watches them leave one by one, fade away into obscurity or shine amongst the nebulae, it’s all so scattered he can’t really tell anymore. Fear burns into his heart until he finds he is the only one left, scarred from the taunting of reality with no one to assure of him that he was really there.
Jongin left weeks ago, body wrecked, stuttered heartbeats and disciplines that used to be ingrained into his every motion left him in a daze. Chanyeol and Baekhyun followed suit, under the guise of bigger and better dreams which really just equate to a chance to dream.
Joonmyun is lost in that white hallway, throwing off the carefully selected lack of colour palette with muddy sneakers. He thinks back to the days when they came here as six, loud and boisterous and bright. He holds onto those memories tightly as Kim Youngmin’s secretary ushers him into the office.
This time, Joonmyun doesn’t sit down. He doesn’t bow. He doesn’t break.
"Have you signed your contract renewal?" The CEO doesn't even look at him, only half paying attention. Joonmyun is barely worth his time. "You could have just turned it in to—"
But Joonmyun can't do this anymore. He shakes his head. “None of this is real,” he blurts. And Joonmyun no longer doubts it. He no longer holds onto those things that are superficial and few and far between. “None of this means anything, and really it never has.”
He walks away, and he doesn't look back.
Ugh I just read this again and it's still so so so heartbreakingly beautiful. It really is a breathtaking piece of work bb, it's so gorgeous. That line of '-halfway to the moon- or home, whichever comes first.' Is just. God, it's so stunning. So gorgeous. I don't even have the words to describe how surreally stunning this is. I really love it.