The company lobby is clean and bright, with crisp icy blues and matte silver accents. Big windows let in weak winter sunlight, cute succulents sit in little white pots, it’s clearly supposed to feel clean and natural. It’s a little too cold for Jihoon—too Apple Store for him to really feel comfortable. It reeks of recent success (that one band of theirs managed to chart top, that was probably the windfall) and shiny new toys.
Woojin is one of those shiny new toys though, so Jihoon tries to relax, to give the place a chance. He’s read up on the lifestyle and treatment of talent within entertainment companies, and though Woojin is only a backup dancer, he’s still at the mercy of their management. Jihoon loses more sleep than he will ever admit—even to Woojin—wondering what happens now, now that the contract is signed and they… own him.
Co-own. Woojin is still Jihoon’s everything and this co-ownership fucking sucks. Woojin has been here for a month and he’s already lost weight (gained muscle as well, sure, but Jihoon didn’t need that) and he sleeps half as much. His body is still growing both taller and firmer and while there are a number of very fortunate things that come with that, the severe dieting is not one of them.
With a critical, defensive gaze Jihoon scans the impressively stern front desk woman for a minute, then turns to the fashionable media agents and less-fashionable groupies mingling in the lobby. They’re all in tones of black and silver, winter tones, and Jihoon wonders why they haven’t ejected him for the premises for the brightness and warmth of his outfit yet.
Give it a chance, this isn’t about you. This is Woojin’s life and Jihoon is 100% here for it. All of it. Including this uncomfortable robot lobby and the sycophants that fill it.
Woojin is running late, held back because apparently ‘their manager has no clue how to wrap an ankle, ill be like ten minutes’ and Jihoon sighs as he unlocks his phone and looks at the text again. He hasn’t responded yet and wonders if it’s even worth it to do so.
Eventually he sends an acknowledgement (no prob i find your field medic tendencies rather charming ;D ) and melts more into the hard leather chair he’s lounging in. It’s not comfortable but Jihoon has to give it a chance. For Woojin.
“A-ah! You’re… are you him?” A sweet voice bubbles from over his shoulder, and Jihoon cranes his neck up to see a sharp jawline and mess of dark hair. After a quick, nervous laugh the man apologizes, bows, and walks around Jihoon’s chair, eventually plopping down into the one opposite him.
Eyes tracking him the whole time, Jihoon tightens his jaw a bit, suddenly wary. He thinks this might be one of the boys in the group Woojin is backing up, the one that’s their age. Hyung… seok? He’s incredibly handsome, pale, with big beady eyes and a strong body hidden under a charming gangliness.
He’s a threat. A very attractive and probably talented threat.
“I’m me.” Jihoon replies shortly.
He laughs brightly before freezing as though he realizes he was too loud. “Ah, yeah, I mean, you’re Jihoon, right? Woojinnie’s…?”
“Waah, wow. Wow, you’re really handsome, even more than Woojin said...” He awes, and Jihoon blushes in discomfort. “Oh, sorry, here I am just spilling words on you without—I’m Hyungseob, 99 line! Woojin is a really good guy, he’s always helping me out with, well, everything really.”
Oh? Jihoon nods, weighing his phone in his hand for lack of anything else to do. He tosses it to his other hand lightly, realizing that he kind of missed the window to respond to Hyungseob’s flattery.
“N-not just me though, oh my god. Like right now he’s wrapping up poor Euiwoong’s ankle and telling him how to take care of it and stuff. Woojin’s so good at things, you know?”
Jihoon does know that, thank you Hyungseob. “He’s the best person you’ll ever know.”
If that was, say, laced with venom, Jihoon can’t help but feel a bit entitled to it. Woojin is his best person and that’s that. He’s incredible in so many ways and Hyungseob will never know that like Jihoon does.
Jihoon doesn’t often get territorial but there’s something about how purely Hyungseob admires (read: crushes on) Woojin reminds him of Guanlin two years ago. Is this what Woojin went through? Fire and ice and immature jealousy? Jihoon makes a mental note to apologize to him later for underestimating the feelings involved. This is awful.
It figures that the Guanlin thing was always bound to come around and bite him in the ass, Jihoon just didn’t know that bite would hurt so much. He checks his phone and flinches minutely when he sees that Woojin hasn’t responded yet. Right, he’s taking care of some poor pretty boy, because that’s what he does.
“I don’t doubt that. You’re very lucky to have him.” Hyungseob is beaming and he probably has no clue how passive aggressive those words are. “I’ve only known him for a month but he’s already someone I can rely on. He takes care of me very well.”
What the hell is this? Does this kid want to get hit? “Are we just going to keep complimenting Woojin back and forth? Play some praise ping-pong?”
Hyungseob laughs and Jihoon is momentarily blown away by how impregnable that shield of sunshine really is. It’s almost inspiring. “Ah, no, I have ulterior motives here. Woojinie said you were waiting in the lobby so I thought I’d come introduce myself. Hi.”
“Oh my god just pick up your damn phone, Jihoon.” Woojin growls quietly, running a hand down his face. It’s not urgent or anything but Jihoon hasn’t returned his last two calls and Woojin just misses him. It’s a little (definitely, completely) lame but Woojin isn't used to being as alone as he’s been recently and he just knows hearing Jihoon’s voice will help, even if it’s just a little.
Today was miserable. A perfect storm of misfortunes and fuck ups, ending with a bad slash of floor burn on his knee. It burns, it stings, and so do his eyes. I’m crying? Really? If Woojin could just, he doesn’t even know, listen to Jihoon talk about biomes and wolf population metrics—just hearing the familiar twist of the tongue over stupid scientific lingo would make him feel better.
The call goes to voicemail and Woojin doesn’t bother to leave one. Jihoon is probably doing something important, running with wolves or whatever his honors project is actually about—Woojin doesn’t know anymore because Jihoon keeps switching his thesis and Woojin hasn’t bothered to bring it up in a while. It’s pretty late but Jihoon’s a bit of a night owl anyway so by rights he should be awake. Jihoon doesn’t really care to talk on phones but he always picks up or at least gets back to him quickly.
What is happening to them? It’s only been a few days but they’ve been bad days and Jihoon hasn’t even connected with him in favor of doing whatever with the sanctuary. Those fucking wolves are more important than him, and have been for days. That’s not right. What’s even less right is that Woojin is jealous of a pack of wolves.
“Hey, so, I’m going to bed.”
Woojin looks up from the phone in his hand to see Hyungseob pop his head out from the door to one of the dorm bedrooms. The two had stayed late, Woojin leading Hyungseob through the choreography he’s still afraid of (mastering parts of a dance he’ll never do, but that’s not Hyungseob’s fault) and since the band’s dorm is only a few minutes away from the company, he offered their couch so Woojin wouldn’t have to go all the way home.
The couch is not uncomfortable but it’s overdue for a good cleaning. Woojin has to crunch up a bit in order to fit but the cushions are soft but he’s so tired he’s getting teary-eyed and a pillow is a pillow. “G’night Hyungseob.”
His friend stifles a huge yawn before smiling deeply. “See ya in the morning. Let’s get breakfast before heading in?”
“Aye aye,” Woojin salutes him tiredly, tucking his borrowed blanket tighter around himself. With a little laugh Hyungseob shuts off the living room light and in the darkness Woojin finally manages to take a deep, stable breath.
He misses Jihoon, he misses his—their—dog and he even misses the cold, creaky apartment Woojin almost moved into with Jihoon. But that was before Woojin got into Brand New Music, before the dream he kept in his back pocket suddenly manifested.
Woojin is half-asleep when his phone glows up, far too close to his face. He jumps away, knocking the phone away in the process. Without missing a beat he snatches it from where it fell and tries to focus on the bright screen. It’s Jihoon.
He picks it up immediately, imbued with a jolt of energy that sends him into the dorm kitchen, away from the rooms of sleeping boy band members. “Jihoon! Thank fucking god. I just, I really needed… are you okay?”
Jihoon hasn’t said anything yet, but something’s wrong. That’s a bad silence if Woojin has ever heard one. “Hey, talk to me. I want to hear your voice.”
“They s-shot her.” Jihoon whispers.
What. “They… who shot...?”
“Hunters. They shot her in the head and then they shot her pup—he almost… I’m sorry, this has just been—”
Holy shit, this is real. Woojin instantly regrets his ill-wishes towards the wolves as he pieces together the story based on Jihoon’s fragments. “—hey, babe, just breathe okay? Don’t even worry about not getting back to me, this is... are you okay?”
“N-not really. Or, yes? The pup is gonna live but he’s never going to be a good… wolf.”
“It’s okay to not be okay, Jihoon.” Woojin reminds him.
“No, it’s Ahri that’s not okay. She’s fucking DEAD, Woojin, and what’s little Ez going to do without the use of his back legs, huh? He can’t be a WOLF a-anymore.”
Woojin is thrown for a short second before remembering that Jihoon named the—his—wolves after League of Legends characters. “Yeah, okay, but Jihoon, are you—”
Jihoon’s still too worked up to listen to him. “We’re going to sue the FUCK out of them, Woojin, I already talked to Sungwoon-hyung and he thinks we have a hell of a case here.” Jihoon takes a deep, rattling breath before he continues. “ I… I’m sorry I’ve just been with the pup through surgery and he’s still not waking up yet a-and it’s... Fuck, sorry. How are you?”
Woojin has a skinned knee and he’s sleeping over at Hyungseob’s place because he’s too tired to go all the way home. These are things that do not measure up to the fact that Jihoon’s two favorite wolves were fatally assaulted by the species Jihoon hates the most. “I’m good, going through a lot with the extra stages but, seriously? Jihoon, when is the last time you’ve slept?”
“That’s a stupid question. Before Ahri was murdered.”
What is Woojin supposed to do here? They’re hours apart, living in completely different worlds with different priorities. “What… Jihoon what can I do for you? I can’t… What do you need?”
“I… I don’t have an answer for you. It’s just… god your voice is already making me feel better. Sorry.”
“You don’t have to apologize to me.” Woojin reminds, shaking his head. “Don’t apologize for needing me, Jihoon. I assure you the feeling is mutual. I love you, all of you, even your aggravating tendency to diminish your own needs.”
“Hoo, straight to the big guns, huh? This is followed up by a request to properly feed myself and get some rest, right? Well, you ARE right. I needed to sleep fucking yesterday…”
Jihoon trails off and Woojin gives him the time to continue his point. “I love you too, Woojin. More than my wolves.”
And yes, he wouldn’t be Jihoon if he couldn’t accidentally hone in on the source of Woojn’s insecurity after thinking about it for less than a heartbeat. “What’s this all of the sudden?”
Jihoon hums to himself deeply. “I just… I don’t know. We’re okay, right? Us?”
“Of course.” Woojin answers, not as sure as he’d like to be.
Woojin’s eyes are alien, confusing, as are the words that fall out of his mouth.
“We can’t keep doing this, Jihoon.”
It’s rather astounding, actually. For all their petty fights and playful back and forths, for all the high-volume teasing and destructive wrestling matches, their actual breakup is quiet. It’s practically silent. Last week’s blistering debate over pizza toppings packed enough heat for Jihoon’s neighbor to come knocking on the door in fear of a domestic dispute, but this.
Quick as a static shock, Jihoon wonders if it didn’t even happen, if that numbness in his veins is simply a lack of pain instead of too much of it. He tries to trace the branches of cause and effect that led to this but the vacant look in Woojin’s eyes informs his heart of the truth long before his mind can catch up. Perhaps one of the most expressive creatures Jihoon has ever known, suddenly unreadable. He’s never met the person he sees behind those eyes.
Somehow it’s like they don’t know each other at all, that they’re not who they are and have been for more than two years. As sure as this, they clearly don’t know how not to be together. They don’t even remember how not to touch—a fact made obvious by Woojin childishly clinging to the hem of Jihoon’s shirt while simultaneously breaking his fucking heart.
“You get it.”
The words are so final. Fatal. Jihoon stiffly tugs his shirt out of Woojin’s tight grasp, focusing on his own fist tightened over the fabric instead of this stranger’s eyes. “I get it.”
Because he does get it. The legal battle at the wolf sanctuary is taking up too much of Jihoon’s heart. Woojin landed a contract with an entertainment company (Jihoon is proud, so proud but looks like that’s just another emotion he has to stifle) and that’s taking up too much of his time. Plus there’s that fucking sunshine kid.
It’s been two years—enough time to fight, to miscommunicate and jump to conclusions. There were cracks that only grew with the pressure on both of them, spreading and weakening in equal measure like thin ice.
Like the ice crystals forming in the corners of the windows in Jihoon’s poorly-insulated apartment. They draw his gaze from his hands and after admiring the frigid beauty Jihoon wonders why he hasn’t noticed the crystals before now. He’s only really associated his apartment with the warmth that Woojin (and perhaps five space heaters, but who’s counting) brought to it.
Why Woojin felt the need to break up with him in in his own home is beyond him.
Still staring at the ice in the window, Jihoon takes a deep and obvious breath—Woojin knows him, knows it means he’s getting his poker face ready so Jihoon doesn’t even bother to hide it. By the time Jihoon dares look back to his boyfriend his eyes are too watery to tell if Woojin is still foreign to him.
“S-sorry.” Woojin’s voice is familiar but also diluted with something Jihoon doesn’t recognize. After a short silence Jihoon blinks the tears from his eyes, donning his tried-and-true mask of scientific sangfroid as he observes Woojin with what he hopes is indifference.
He looks like hell, holding himself tightly, stiff as stone as though to prevent himself from touching Jihoon again. It’s like he has to physically stop himself from taking everything back and Jihoon feels like throwing up over everything.
“I love you, Jihoon, this isn—”
“Leave. Please.” Jihoon growls before taking another breath and looking Woojin straight in the eye with as much steel, as much venom as he can. “Break a leg.”
Why am I being like this?
It’s sickly satisfying—Woojin looks as pained as if Jihoon actually broke his fucking leg right there. These eyes are no longer the eyes of a stranger and the familiarity reminds Jihoon that he needs Woojin to get the fuck out of here immediately. But Woojin doesn’t move to leave.
No, he moves to take a step closer.
Jihoon is having none of that. He takes a faster step and shoves Woojin back—not harsh but far from light. “This is your idea, isn’t it? So go. ”
“I… okay. I’m going.” Woojin can’t make eye contact with him anymore, which Jihoon considers a good showing of karmic retribution. Let him feel that pain, let him hate himself because sure as shit Jihoon isn’t going to be able to hate Woojin for this. He can’t hate Woojin, that’s even less likely than this breakup.
There’s still fried chicken in the kitchen. It smells fantastic.
More for him, then.
Jihoon’s mental processes and emotional systems are shutting down like a blackout traveling through an electrical grid square by emotionless square. It’s probably better this way—if his heart was working properly he’d most likely be fuming, sharp as a whip and no less painful. This slow descent into numbness feels more appropriate and less fucking awful.
A few silent tears roll down Woojin’s cheeks now as backs away and turns around to start unsteadily fumbling around his apartment for his jacket, gloves, scarf, hat (why does he own so much winter apparel, Jihoon needs him out of here right fucking now) and finally slipping awkwardly into his shoes. Jihoon just watches him, still frozen in place. He doesn’t think his legs would work anyway.
“I’m sorry,” Woojin mutters over and over, normally dexterous fingers fumbling over his laces like a toddler.
Jihoon flat out laughs once, cruelly, and Woojin abandons the knots altogether before slipping on his jacket and tucking the rest of his winter wear in his pockets before all but jogging to the front door. Still in the exact spot as he has been this whole time, Jihoon keeps a keen gaze on Woojin as he opens the front door but he doesn’t actually leave. Instead he hesitates on the threshold, arms holding his body loosely between the walls of the door frame as though he were contemplating jumping out of a plane.
Same emotional body language, too. Huh. That’s a bit of a mixed metaphor but Jihoon’s brain is a bowl of emotionally repressed jelly by now so he gives himself credit for at least trying to abstract away the awful sight of the man he loves leaving him.
It doesn't really matter if it's for a completely valid, perhaps necessary reason. Jihoon would never forgive himself if he got in the way of Woojin’s success—he knows the feeling is mutual, it’s the goddamn reason they have to break up.
“I’ll… I’ll see you, Jihoon.” Woojin looks over his shoulder, his expression resigned and cheeks shining with tears.
Stop this. Don’t let this happen.
“I’m sure you will.” Jihoon bites back. His heart is bellowing at him for being such a fucking asshole but his frazzled mind and crushed spirit gang up against that sentiment in a rush of futility. “Take care of your dog.”
Your dog. This may be the first time Jihoon’s uttered those words since they’ve been dating. He can feel his own venom by now, eating at him inside. This is claws-out defensive posturing and they both know it but Jihoon doesn’t know how else to act right now. He barely knows how to exist right now.
“I’m sorry.” Woojin whispers painfully, conclusively, before darting out of the door and shutting it quietly behind him.
Go after him!
Jihoon remains still, listening after his movements—of course he does, he’s always been hypersensitive when it comes to Woojin—but doesn’t hear a thing for almost half a minute. Then he hears a wretched sob before Woojin’s feet begin to pound swiftly over the hallway floor. He’s going to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Jihoon laughs out loud bitterly when he finally hears the sound of the door to the stairwell opening and shutting with a loud slam.
There's still fucking breakup chicken in the kitchen and it smells really good.
Jihoon spends a couple minutes unthawing before walking sluggishly to the frozen window overlooking the street below his apartment building. Snow falls in flurries of tiny flakes, more like ice crystals than tufts of cotton, and Jihoon has to wipe away condensation on the inside of the window in order to recognize anything besides familiar blobs.
And of course—of course —in the short space of time before the glass fogs up again Jihoon manages to see something that jump starts his subdued heart. And then dropkicks it.
Park Woojin stands in the snowy road, jacket still unfastened as though he can’t feel the small blizzard around him. The scarf he stuffed in his pocket is trailing out onto the pristine snow and Jihoon mutely acknowledges it's the red one he had knit for him last year during his misguided attempt to pick up a new hobby.
Out in the cold, staring at Jihoon’s 3rd floor window for who knows how long by now, Jihoon almost pities him.
You fucking jerk, I told you to leave. The glass fogs more and more under Jihoon’s breath and when it finally covers the window again Jihoon rests his forehead against the cold glass with a dry sob.
When he wipes the window again, Woojin is gone.
“Let me get this straight...” Daehwi purrs, pinning a cuff link to the sleeve of Woojin’s (borrowed) tuxedo button-up. His grip around Woojin’s wrist tightens with much more power than he imagined Daehwi was capable of. “You brought him chicken for the two of you and then broke up with him shittily while he was in his own home?”
Daehwi’s thumb is pressing sharply into the pulse point on his wrist and Woojin grumbles, “Pretty much.”
“Anything else? Did you sacrifice a cat in front of him? Did you fuck Hyungseob before or after breaking his heart? Wait, don’t tell me, it was during, wasn’t it?”
“No! Fuck you, Dae—” Daehwi tugs his wrist closer with a silent snarl and Woojin shuts up immediately.
“And you did this all one month ago? ” It’s more of a hiss than a whisper that comes out of Daehwi’s lips and Woojin will admit he’s a little scared now.
They’re in Daehwi’s clean, well-lit bathroom and the younger has spent the last hour prepping Woojin for his company holiday party. He’s been sitting obediently on the rim of the bathtub while Daehwi styles his hair and fixes his sleeves and they had been chatting about Ongniel’s quiet breakup last year at around this time. It’s been about a month since the two had talked, and Woojin realizes he really missed him. He had socially checked out from his immediate friend group (mainly because Jihoon still shares it, has as much a place there as Woojin) which unfortunately included Daehwi.
Woojin was happy for this time with him but as soon as his friend asked, "Why aren’t you getting ready with Jihoonnie?” and Woojin idiotically word-vomited, “Because we’re not dating anymore,” Daehwi’s been interrogating him, berating him, and also making him look really handsome in his tuxedo. It’s a bit of a mixed bag.
“You’re a fucking monster, Park Woojin.” Daehwi shakes his head in disbelief. “And it’s worse because you don’t even see it, do you?”
Woojin doesn’t fucking need this right now, but Daehwi’s instincts are pretty much always spot on, so yeah, he totally needs whatever his friend sees fit to throw at him. Not like Woojin doesn’t feel like a piece of shit every single day, but he’s been running out of things to reprimand himself about and Daehwi will certainly have some colorful new censures. “I just wanted him to feel comfortable.”
“What, when you broke his heart? No wonder he’s AWOL, you fucking fool! You lit a bunch of candles, scattered rose petals, drew a bubble bath, and then shot him in the heart.” Daehwi shoves Woojin’s cuff-linked arm away, nearly sending him toppling backwards off the edge of the bathtub.
Okay, that was a little too colorful of a censure. Woojin winces at the imagery. “You know things haven’t been syncing up with us. I told you that, I know I did.”
Daehwi rolls his eyes. “Yeah, you told me that. One. Month. Ago. Didn’t tell me, oh, that you broke up with him, which, by the way, no one bet on.”
“The fuck does that mean?” Woojin growls, even though he understands to some extent exactly what he means by that. It’s hard not to.
“Seriously?” Daehwi outsasses him easily. “Hyung, you’re kidding right? No one thought you would be the one to break up with him. Not from the start, not through the Guanlin fakeout, not now—oh, sorry, not one month ago.”
That’s getting annoying. “Can you drop that one month shit? I get it, and clearly you do too. I’m terrible, yes, but I didn’t see the need to alert the goddamn group chat about it!” Woojin shoots up off the edge of the tub, unknowingly rolling up his sleeves and knocking off both cuff links. Daehwi actually shrieks in distress.
Shaking his head, Woojin waves his friend off before taking long strides out of the spacious bathroom. “No fucking cuff links, Daehwi.”
“Oh, come on, you broke Jihoon’s heart for this job, you should at least put in effort for the holiday party!” Daehwi’s actual anger is spilling out now, not just his irritation. And here Woojin thought the pair of them had been firm friends (brothers even) for a decade but no, he immediately sides with Jihoon.
Jihoon is beloved, of course everyone would side with him.
Woojin wants to smack himself as soon as he thinks this, as soon as he draws battle lines between he and Jihoon. This isn’t a fucking divorce and Daehwi is entitled and welcomed to his opinions, but it’s not very often that they aren’t completely in each others’ corners. Woojin makes it to Daehwi’s kitchen and rifles through the fridge for a beer before before sighing deeply and dramatically. “I should have known, you only have half a bottle of Pinot Grigio. Whose kitchen did I think this was, of course you have half a bottle of Grig...”
He grabs it anyway, pulling out the cork with a deep pop.
“You want to be in Jihoon’s kitchen.” Daehwi growls, having followed him to the fridge and is now reaching on his tiptoes for two wine glasses in a cupboard. “With his boujie beer and beef jerky drawer. You know, where you fucking belong.”
Woojin raises the open wine bottle at Daehwi and neither of them miss the tremor in his hand. With a sad sigh, Daehwi softens, slouches his shoulders, and lazily holds out the glasses for Woojin to pour. Neither speak until Woojin expertfully (an ex-baby ex-bartender, the thought hurts more than it should) pours the rest of the wine into two equal portions.
“I get it.” Daehwi admits, holding the glass to his nose for a sniff. Woojin mimics the action mockingly but the younger just snorts and swirls his glass before continuing. “This is your future. This has been your dream since before I’ve known you. It’s why you moved into the city, it’s why you took over Daniel’s crew and worked so hard at Jisung’s place. I fucking get that."
Nodding along cautiously, Woojin waits for the backhand. It doesn’t take long.
“But you’re a blind fucking fool, Park Woojin, if you’re trying to convince yourself that Jihoon isn’t a part of that dream.”