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Always With You

Chapter Text

Changmin wasn’t surprised to wake up with a text from Yunho.

Yunho:  Good morning, Changmin!

I hope you slept well?

Today is December 26th. We debuted fifteen years ago on this day! Wow, time flew by so quickly, right?

I’m so proud of the both of us. We’ve accomplished so much together and I’m so happy to have always had you by my side. I don’t know what I would have done without you. Thank you for always being there for me whenever I needed you. Because of you, we can celebrate our anniversary together!

I’m looking forward to our fanmeet! And don’t forget that we have dinner tonight!

Changmin smiled. Yunho was always so cheesy, and Changmin wondered how he could hate that yet still be amused by it all at the same time.

Another text came in, this time a picture, also from Yunho.

Changmin couldn’t believe what he was looking at. Yunho and Changmin from fifteen years ago; their hair embarrassingly messy, Yunho’s teeth still crooked, Changmin’s mismatched eyes glaringly obvious.

Yunho:  My mom sent me this picture of the two of us. Remember when we took this? It was the day before our debut stage. Changmin look at how cute you are! I can’t believe you’ve grown so much T_T I would do anything to go back in time and and be able pinch your cheeks again.

Changmin remembered that picture so well. He had been so nervous about their debut, and the only solace he could find was from clinging to Yunho like a small child. Mrs. Jung thought it was the cutest thing she had ever seen and took a quick picture.

Changmin felt the heat rising in his cheeks, and was glad that no one was able to see his face blushing at Yunho’s comment.

Seventeen years of knowing Yunho and somehow the older one could still do or say something to make Changmin’s face turn beet red.

Changmin could only imagine how this day was going to go.

Yunho was always so corny on a normal day, but it seemed to increase whenever it was their debut anniversary. On their anniversary days, everything reminded Yunho about that day. Yunho will see something, gasp dramatically and say “doesn’t this remind you of…” and begin a long-winded story connecting the anniversary to the random object he just picked up.

Changmin always looked forward to their anniversaries. It was always nice to walk down memory lane, living through the good memories and the bad ones. In a perfect world, Changmin’s memories wouldn’t be tainted by all the fear, heartbreak, and trauma that he had to endure in order to get where he is today. But everything that happened, the good and the bad, helped him grow to be a man he was proud of. Through it all, life gave him Yunho. Having Yunho made everything so much easier to deal with.

He wouldn’t trade having Yunho by his side for anything.

Changmin’s phone went off again.

Another message from Yunho, of course.

Yunho:  Um...one more thing, Changmin. I just wanted to make sure you know that I love you. I hope my messages didn’t wake you up. I was just so excited. But you should get as much rest as you can for today.

Changmin rolled his eyes. Maybe it was time to reply to Yunho. Changmin was just as excited about today as Yunho was, but he at least had the patience to wait until after sunrise. He appreciated Yunho so much, and was so happy they could celebrate fifteen years together.

Changmin started typing rapidly.

Changmin:  Of course you woke me up, you idiot! You sent me 3 messages in a row. It’s 7AM I should not have to be awake this early, Yunho!!!

Another quick reply came in from Yunho.

Yunho:  Changmin T_T

Changmin sighed. Yunho could be such a huge man-child at times. 

Changmin:  Happy anniversary. I love you too, Yunho.

Yunho:  I know you do, Changmin! ^^ I just wanted you to say it! See you later, Changdola! I can’t wait to see you!

Changmin chuckled in amusement.

Happy anniversary, indeed.

Chapter Text

Yunho was sure, if Changmin hadn’t been holding him up, he would have fallen facedown to the floor.

He barely had any grasp of what was going on until he felt himself being dropped onto a mattress.

Had his bed always been this comfortable?

Yunho released a groan. Everything hurt. Yunho’s body felt as if it was on fire.

He wished this bed would just swallow him up, maybe that would relieve whatever he was experiencing.

“It’s okay,” Changmin whispered as he swept Yunho’s bangs from his forehead.

The slight brush of Changmin’s fingers felt cool against his sweaty forehead and Yunho wanted nothing more than to feel Changmin’s touch once more.

“I’m going to stay with him,” he heard Changmin say. He was probably speaking to the other members, but Yunho didn’t even realize there were was any other person in the room until he heard Junsu reply.

“Do you think he’d be willing to eat anything?”

“We should just get him some water for now,” Jaejoong suggested. “I’ll make him some soup later.”

Yunho felt a dip in the bed as someone sat down next to him.

“How did you get a fever so quickly, Hyung?”

It was Changmin speaking again. The others must have left the room to let Yunho get some sleep.

Yunho wanted to tell Changmin that he’d be fine. He wanted to tell Changmin that this was nothing, and he’d feel better after a nap.

But Yunho’s tongue felt so heavy, he could barely get himself to open his mouth and speak.

“Here’s some water.”

Jaejoong had somehow returned without Yunho noticing.

Yunho felt a pair of arms support him to slightly sit up, before a water bottle was placed on his lips.

It was only at that moment that Yunho realized how thirsty he was, because once the water was in his mouth, he couldn’t get himself to stop drinking it, and he released a whine of protest once it was taken away.

“Get some sleep, Yunho,” Jaejoong said. He helped Yunho lay back down despite the weak sound of protest that emitted from Yunho.

A cold, wet towel was placed on his forehead, and Yunho shivered at the drastic temperature change.

“It’s for your fever, Hyung,” Changmin explained. “Hopefully it’ll help you feel better.”

Yunho closed his eyes.

He felt Changmin running his fingers through his hair and Yunho realized this was the most relaxing feeling he ever experienced.

“You’re so warm,” Changmin muttered in concern. “How did this fever rise so quickly?”

That was a question Yunho didn’t have an answer to. He thought he was okay when he woke up this morning. It was only when they were recording at the studio did he start to weak, but he had thought he just needed to eat, so he ignored it.

Ignoring it, however, didn’t help him when he suddenly collapsed. If it hadn’t been for Changmin’s quick reflexes, Yunho’s head would have collided with the studio desk.

Yunho didn’t know how bad he had gotten until then, and was glad he was saved from having a concussion and a fever.

Changmin started humming as he continued playing with Yunho’s hair.

He was barely able to notice the concerned look on Changmin’s face. He slowly brought his hand to Changmin’s knee, the only way his body seemed to allow him to communicate that he would be okay.

Changmin smiled. “I’ll be here in case you need anything, okay?”

Yunho didn’t remember falling asleep, but once he woke up, he noticed the complete contrast in his condition. His body was no longer feeling like a furnace and a freezer all at the same time. It didn’t feel like all the energy in his body had disappeared.

He almost felt like his normal self, and that was good enough for him.

Yunho looked over to see Changmin curled up next to him; the poor boy must have tired himself out playing Yunho’s caregiver.

Yunho instinctively reached over and brushed Changmin’s bangs.

He wanted to tell Changmin that he was fine now, and that the maknae could go sleep in his own bed now.

Despite the fact that Yunho’s body was no longer jumping from burning hot to freezing cold, his tongue was still dry and his throat felt as if he had just swallowed a gallon of sand. A small croak escaped his lips instead, but Changmin still jumped awake at the sound.

“Yunho,” he whispered, quickly sitting up. “You’re awake.” He placed a hand on Yunho’s forehead and sighed in relief. “Your fever’s gone.”

Yunho nodded.

“Thirsty?”

Yunho nodded again, this time more vigorously.

Changmin grabbed a water bottle from the floor near the bed.

Yunho quickly accepted it; he felt as if he hadn’t had anything to drink in days.

“How are you feeling?” Changmin asked after Yunho managed to finish all the water.

“Better,” Yunho answered, overjoyed at the fact that speaking was no longer difficult. He sat up. “It seems that you’ve nursed me back to health.”

Changmin chuckled. “I didn’t really do much,” he replied shyly.

“Nonsense, Changmin,” Yunho responded with a smile. “There’s no way I could recover this quickly without you helping me.” Yunho ruffled the maknae’s hair. “You should get some real sleep. I feel much better now.”

Changmin immediately complied, laying back down.

“Uh...Changmin?”

“You must not be feeling as good as you thought,” Changmin pointed out. “This is my bed.”

Yunho was silent for a while as he took in the room. He must have been really out of it to not notice that he wasn’t in his own bed. “Oh,” he whispered.

“I thought you’d be more comfortable on it,” Changmin continued. “You can sleep here for the rest of the night. You were in really bad shape yesterday.”

Yunho smiled. He didn’t hesitate to accept Changmin’s offer. He laid back down on the bed. “Thanks a lot, Changmin,” Yunho whispered as the two of them dozed off into a peaceful slumber.

Chapter Text

When Yunho first met Changmin, Yunho couldn’t believe that this scrawny, doe-eyed teenager could do much of anything. Changmin barely spoke to anyone that day because he was so shy. He barely made eye contact with anyone, and only spoke when he was practically forced to.

It still amazed Yunho that Changmin turned out the way he did.

Changmin was still shy, he still had those childlike eyes that Yunho would stare into all day if he could. Changmin still had that unruly hair that only looked tame when the stylists worked their magic.

At the same time, Changmin was different. It was easier for him to make friends now, he didn’t completely dread meeting new people so much anymore.

Yunho was so proud of him.

But sometimes, even after all these years, that scared thirteen year old still made his appearance every once in a while, even if Changmin didn’t mean for it to happen. Sometimes, that scared thirteen year old would come out and make Changmin doubt his own abilities, despite the fact that he proved how good he was at everything that came his way every single time. That scared thirteen year old would come out and put Changmin back into his shell.

Yunho thought that thirteen year old was extremely adorable, but sometimes he really hated him.

Yunho understood that it must have been really hard for Changmin all these years.

Changmin didn’t want to become an idol, he didn’t even want to audition. It must had been difficult waking up one morning expecting your usual routine only to be scouted by one of the biggest entertainment companies in the country.

But Changmin made it.

He adjusted to the sudden change as much as he could.

Changmin pushed himself harder every year. He wanted to be the best version of himself and worked hard at it. Yunho sometimes worried that Changmin worked himself too hard, and whenever he pointed it out to the younger one, Changmin would immediately label him as a hypocrite and then carry on.

Changmin wanted to be happy with himself; he wanted to be proud of himself.

Yunho would always tell Changmin that he, and so many other people were already immensely proud of him, but Changmin still figured there was no harm in getting better.

There were hard times, so many hard times.

Yunho remembered one night, he heard Changmin talking on the phone, begging whoever he was talking to to take him home because he didn’t think he could survive trainee life anymore.

Some days, Changmin would go to school, and Yunho would later find him near the dumpster behind the school because that’s where his bullies wouldn’t think to look for him.

There were days when Changmin would have another encounter with sasaengs, and Changmin wanted nothing more than to crawl into a hole and hide because he didn’t think anywhere else was safe.

Then there was when the band split, and Changmin felt as if someone had stabbed him in the heart forty times. He felt helpless, he felt like a failure, and worst of all, he felt abandoned.

Yunho hated those periods. Changmin didn’t deserve any of that. Yunho just wished there was a magical place he could take Changmin to so that he’d never be hurt again.

But Changmin was Changmin. He didn’t like to look weak; he didn’t like to be treated like a small child. So he powered through, because he was stubborn like that.

Yunho was proud of him even during those times, because Changmin had every opportunity to quit, but he stayed every time.

Yunho wondered if Changmin was really determined to be by his side, or if he was just really crazy.

Yunho concluded it was a little bit of both.

But for whatever reason, he was glad Changmin always stayed.

Being an idol was the only thing Yunho had ever dreamed of doing; Changmin...not so much.

But Yunho wasn’t sure how he could have fulfilled his dream without Changmin by his side.

How exactly could Yunho thank Changmin after everything he’s done? After everything he’s had to endure for Yunho’s sake?

Yunho needed Changmin so much and couldn’t imagine living a life without him.

Changmin had this amazing ability to make Yunho feel stronger, safer, and more confident just by being around.

Changmin was the one person in the world who understood most of what Yunho went through. Losing him would have meant losing the biggest source of hope Yunho ever had.

“I don’t know what I’d do without you,” Yunho said one night.

He had said it so casually, Changmin doubted that Yunho even realized what he had just said.

“Die, probably,” Changmin simply answered.

Yunho laughed at his answer. “I probably would.”

“Don’t worry,” Changmin replied. “I’ll always be there to make sure you never die.”

“Never?” Yunho challenged, still amused.

Changmin nodded. “Never.”

Chapter Text

Changmin rolled over on his matress, hugging the thin blanket tightly around him.

A whole year had passed since he enlisted, and Changmin had surprised himself by being able to survive this long.

Granted, it had been extremely difficult.

Changmin had to learn how to do so many new things in the past year.

He had always viewed himself as an independent person, which is why he couldn’t figure out why this whole thing was so hard.

Had he changed so drastically over the years?

A whole year had passed since he enlisted in the military, and he still found himself hoping Yunho would randomly appear in his unit and just...do things for him.

He missed Yunho handling the hard questions.

He missed Yunho constantly whispering reassuring words in his ear.

He missed Yunho by his side, being a comforting presence Changmin knew he always needed but would never admit.

He missed Yunho’s regular dose of cheerful text messages, complete with smiley faces and heart emojis.

He missed Yunho.

He’d give anything to see Yunho right now, even if it meant having to wake up at an ungodly hour to Yunho singing his favorite songs at the top of his lungs.

Changmin couldn’t believe he was missing Yunho so much.

Before the two of them enlisted, Yunho was always easily accessible. They spent so much time with each other, and now, it just seemed like there was a massive, Yunho-shaped hole in Changmin’s life.

Changmin wondered if Yunho missed him as much as he missed Yunho.

Changmin scoffed. Probably not.

Yunho was actually enjoying himself. He was making new friends, receiving new challenges, getting a regular sleep schedule, performing, pretty much everything he loved doing wrapped into one package.

Whenever Changmin and Yunho were able to speak to each other, Yunho would just rave about how exciting his stretch of time had been. Changmin was always happy for him, because knowing Yunho was happy was enough to keep Changmin going. Yunho deserved to be happy.

Whenever Yunho would ask Changmin for updates, Changmin didn’t have it in his heart to tell Yunho that he was completely miserable. Doing that would cause Yunho to worry about a problem that he had absolutely no power to solve.

So, Changmin would just talk about how average his day was, and talk about whatever assignment he was given with Siwon and Donghae.

Changmin was 100% certain that, when he found out Siwon and Donghae were enlisting in the same unit, Yunho called the two Super Junior members and provided step by step instructions to make sure Changmin was taken care of. The three of them hadn’t given any hints to confirm if something like that had occured, but Changmin was willing to bet that something like that happened.

Whether it did or not, Changmin was sincerely grateful to those two. He was sure that without Siwon and Donghae, he would have lost his mind only a couple of days after enlisting.

Siwon took charge whenever Changmin seemed to freeze up. Donghae was much like Yunho when it came to being the moodmaker. He always wanted to see Changmin smile.

Changmin couldn’t understand why he was like this.

Siwon and Yunho adjusted perfectly to their enlistment, diving into the routine from the very beginning. Even Donghae, shocking almost everyone with how well enlistment was treating him, found his niche almost immediately.

But for some stupid reason, Changmin was here sulking like a sad child in a place he felt that he didn’t belong.

Changmin had gone the first thirteen years of his life without Yunho and he was just fine. Why should this year be any different?

With a sigh, Changmin sat up on his matress.

Maybe he should just try to call Yunho…

But Yunho certainly didn’t need Changmin bothering all the time.

Yunho always had so much to do, that sometimes he was hard to reach.

No. Maybe he shouldn’t try and call Yunho. Who knows what Yunho was doing right now? He probably didn’t have time to speak to Changmin today.

Changmin must have been completely lost in his head. He jumped as he felt another presence on his bed.

“Si-Siwon,” Changmin said in surprise. “Hey.”

“Hey,” Siwon replied with a smile. “You okay?”

Changmin nodded. Of course he was okay.

“I’m going to call my parents,” Siwon continued.

Changmin had talked to his parents already. He missed them too. Changmin talked to everyone this week; his parents, his sisters, Kyuhyun, Minho.

He had managed to speak to everyone except Yunho.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Siwon asked. His eyebrows were knit in genuine concern at Changmin’s behavior.

“I’m okay,” Changmin answered. “Really, I am.” I’m just a big wimp who’s not cut out for military life.

“Donghae and I are free tonight,” Siwon pointed out as he slung an arm over Changmin’s shoulder. “The three of us should hang out.”

Hanging out with Donghae and Siwon seemed like a nice distraction.

Changmin needed a distraction.

He needed something to get his mind off of how pathetic he was feeling.

“I’d like that,” Changmin accepted with a smile.

A soldier approached Changmin’s bed, and Changmin wonders how lost in his head he was that he didn’t even realize that someone had come for him.

Siwon and the soldier exchanged pleasantries; the two of them trained together a lot and had become friendly with each other over the past year.

“Changmin,” the soldier said. “You have a phone call.”

Changmin’s eyebrows perked up in curiosity. He looked to Siwon; whether for confirmation of what he just heard, or for permission to leave, he honestly wasn’t sure. But Siwon smiled and silently urged Changmin to go.

Changmin rose from the bed and quickly made his way to the telephone bank.

“Hello?” he spoke into the receiver and sat down.

“Changmin! It’s so good to hear your voice. How are you?”

A shaky exhale forced its way out of Changmin's lip as he smiled. Changmin could have sworn that his eyes were watering up. “Yunho.”

And just like that, hearing Yunho’s voice made so many things better.

Chapter Text

Yunho sighed in content as he hung up the phone.

It had been so long since he heard Changmin’s voice, and Yunho had missed him dearly.

Ever since their enlistments, Yunho and Changmin’s schedules didn’t coordinate very well. Sometimes they would go weeks without talking to each other and Yunho absolutely hated that.

Yunho needed Changmin, no matter how much the maknae never realized. Throughout every whirlwind of events to pass through Yunho’s life, Changmin was the one constant reassurance he had in his life. The fact that Changmin wasn’t just a phone call away was devastating.

Yunho was enjoying himself overall, though. Military life was surprisingly easy for Yunho, and he ended up having more fun than he expected. Being the social butterfly that he was, he made friends quickly, and it made Yunho’s transition into military life so much easier.

But Yunho knew that Changmin was having the very opposite experience, and it brought a pain to Yunho’s heart whenever he thought about it.

While Changmin had reassured Yunho that he was doing well in his unit, Yunho knew he was lying. He could hear the slight shake in Changmin’s voice whenever he said he was doing okay. Yunho noticed how tired Changmin seemed whenever they could meet face to face.

Yunho would do anything to make Changmin happy. If he had the power to, he’d terminate Changmin’s mandatory service right now and get him sent home. Even if Yunho couldn’t be there with him, he knew Changmin wouldn’t have to face the fear of change, and at least he had Kyuhyun making sure he was okay.

Changmin didn’t like change very much, and Yunho knew this whole thing was so hard for him.

When he found out Donghae and Siwon were to be assigned in the same unit as Changmin, Yunho was ecstatic. He immediately called Donghae and begged him to make sure that he and Siwon helped Changmin be as comfortable as possible.

Changmin could never find that out. Yunho knew Changmin would hate him if he found out that Yunho was asking someone to practically babysit him. Changmin hated being dependent, but Yunho hated seeing him struggle.

But Yunho always felt that it was his job to help Changmin in every way possible, even if they were miles apart.

It just drove Yunho crazy that it was so hard to constantly check on Changmin when contacting the younger one couldn’t happen as frequently as he would have liked.

It was so much easier being an idol. Their schedules were almost identical, and even during those moments where they had separate commitments to attend to, they always had the opportunity to meet at the end of the day and check on each other.

They didn’t have that luxury now.

Even though Yunho knew military service would be expected of him, he still wasn’t prepared to be away from Changmin this much, and he wondered how he could be so foolish to think that everything would be the same once he enlisted.

Changmin had completed a whole year of service so far, and Yunho was immensely proud of him.

Changmin was the type to always excel in whatever he was expected to do, with only minor complaining as he did it.

But that didn’t mean Yunho still didn’t habitually worry about if something was too hard for Changmin.

But he trusted Siwon and Donghae deeply.

If Changmin was on the verge of dying, he would have heard by now.

Yunho and Changmin had leave scheduled some time next month, and Yunho certainly couldn’t wait to see Changmin again.

Because Yunho certainly knew that time spent together was always the best thing for the both of them.

Chapter Text

Yunho always said they would only go as far as their fans took them.

Changmin knew Yunho was right. After all, it didn’t matter how much work you put into being an idol if there was no audience to please in the first place.

Which is why Changmin was always so worried about how fans viewed him. He didn’t want them to think he was perfect, he just hoped they’d like him enough to not need him to be perfect.

It made both of them happy when their fans accepted them, flaws and all.

So when they got ready to stand on stage for the first time as only two members, both Yunho and Changmin felt as if they were debuting all over again.

Except this time, the stakes were higher and it just wasn’t fair.

Yunho and Changmin had to crawl their way back here, and both of them were determined to get back up again.

They weren’t ready to lose everything they’d already worked so hard to get.

They knew it would be hard, a complete struggle, but they still believed they could accomplish it.

For a brief moment, just before they went on stage, Changmin began to think that maybe the two of them had been way over their heads.

There was no way the public would accept them. There was too much tension, too much anger, too much blame being thrown from every corner.

“I can’t do this,” Changmin murmured, his eyes wide as his body seemed completely frozen.

Yunho wasn’t doing much better; his heart was beating suspiciously fast and his palms were beginning to sweat.

Maybe this really wasn’t such a great idea. Would it be too late to turn back now?

Changmin stood closer to Yunho, grabbing his arm tightly. “Yunho.” His voice was unsteady and Yunho could feel him shaking.

Maybe it was too soon. They couldn’t face the public, not yet, not tonight.

“There are so many people out there,” Changmin continued.

Yunho held Changmin’s hand. “It’s okay,” he whispered. He probably wasn’t doing a good job of trying to comfort Changmin. He wasn’t even doing a good job of comforting himself.

There were people out there that actually wanted to see them, right? There was no way everyone completely turned their backs on them.

“We’re going to perform as usual,” Yunho said, staring into Changmin’s frightened eyes. “And everything will be okay. We’ve been doing this for years.”

Except there was no way everything was okay. They’d been on hiatus for over a year, and they certainly would not be performing “as usual” because they were on stage with three less members, something most of the fans were still bitter about.

“Everything will be okay,” Changmin repeated to himself, causing Yunho to nod.

“Remember that we promised each other that we would continue to succeed,” Yunho continued. “Let’s not break that promise.”

Changmin swallowed the lump in his throat. Of course he didn’t want to break that promise. He still had so much he wanted to accomplish.

He also didn’t want to disappoint Yunho.

But their success couldn’t possibly happen if fans wanted nothing to do with them.

Yunho and Changmin needed to calm themselves down. They took several deep breaths, holding each other’s hands tightly. Their ears were ringing from excitement and they didn’t even know that was possible.

And then the time finally came.

Changmin felt his knees going weak, and wasn’t sure what would have happened if he and Yunho hadn’t been holding onto each other so tightly.

“You ready?” Yunho asked Changmin.

Changmin mouth was going dry and his head was spinning and his stomach was churning and-

“I’m ready,” Changmin answered. “I’m ready.”

Then, once they appeared on stage, they heard it.

They heard the cheers, the fans screaming their names, the fans’ excitement upon seeing them for the first time in a year.

They heard their fans’ love.

If their careers were going to survive based on how much their fans carried them, then Yunho and Changmin got the confirmation they needed at this very moment.

Their fans were going to carry them far.

Chapter Text

Yunho scratched his head as he stared at the glass case.

He couldn’t decide what to get, and he was sure the shop owner was getting impatient with Yunho’s indecisiveness.

Maybe...Maybe he should just...buy all of them?

Yunho shook his head.

Yunho was told that he really needed to stop wasting his money like that.

Yunho never understood that. If you’re buying a gift for someone you love, then it’s never a waste.

He looked to the shop owner once more. “Can I look at that silver one again?” he asked. For some reason, even through the fog of his tentative mind, Yunho seemed drawn to this one the most.

The older man behind the counter nodded, opening the case and getting the silver bracelet he noticed Yunho couldn’t keep his eyes off of.

Yunho hoped Changmin would like it. It was plain and simple, just like what Changmin preferred.

Yunho knew Changmin didn’t want him to make a major deal out of it; they had a lot of special plans coming up and Yunho knew he thought the time spent together would be special enough.

Yunho paid for the bracelet, thanking the shop owner for his patience. Trying to get Yunho to make up his mind must not have been a fun thing to do.

Yunho and Changmin met up later that evening. They met in a private room in their favorite restaurant; part of their agenda to celebrate together privately.

Yunho was grinning ear to ear when they finally met up, and Changmin was eager to know why.

“I know you said not to go overboard,” Yunho began. “But I still bought you something.”

Before Changmin could give his usual “you didn’t have to get me anything” speech, Yunho placed a small gift box on the table, a red bow decorating the exterior.

Changmin looked at him curiously.

“Open it,” Yunho urged, pushing it closer to him.

Changmin obeyed. He gasped as he pulled out the shiny silver bracelet from the box.

“Do you like it?”

Changmin nodded. “Thank you, Yunho,” he said as he clumsily attempted to put on the bracelet. It amused Yunho so much, and he thought Changmin’s failed struggles were adorable.

“Let me help you,” Yunho said, grabbing the bracelet and Changmin’s wrist. The clasp of the bracelet was easy for Yunho to handle, and he smiled as Changmin’s face lit up as the bracelet was secure on his wrist.

“Promise to never take it off,” Yunho requested. “Unless you’re...filming or something and you have to.”

Yunho wasn’t sure why he made such a demand; it almost seemed childish. Asking Changmin to never take off a lame piece of jewelry was stupid, which is why he was so surprised with Changmin’s response.

“I promise,” Changmin said with a smile. “I’ll never take it off, okay?”

Yunho’s smile got impossibly bigger.

“I got you something too,” Changmin announced.

Yunho’s mouth formed an ‘O’ as he watched Changmin pull something out of his backpack. It was rectangular shaped, gift-wrapped with shiny paper.

Changmin placed the gift in front of Yunho. “It’s not much,” he said shyly. “But um...I hope you like it.”

Yunho quickly unwrapped the gift and chortled at the sight.

It was a framed picture; the two of them overlooking the Tokyo skyline. They were talking, laughing at something that Yunho couldn’t seem to remember at the moment. What he did remember, was that the two of them had a shoot that day, and they went up to the rooftop to unwind, followed by a few crew members.

“You and I have so many memories in Japan,” Changmin explained. “I didn’t know this picture was being even being taken, but I really liked it and thought you would too.”

“I love it, Changmin,” Yunho said. “Thank you so much.”

“Happy anniversary, Hyung.”

“Happy anniversary, Min.”

Chapter Text

Home is, to Yunho, a place where he could be himself.

Home is, to Yunho, a place where he could be vulnerable; where he didn’t always have to be a leader.

Home is, after life beat him down in every way, a place where Yunho could come to and find warmth and comfort.

Home is, to Yunho, a place where he could receive love unconditionally.

Home is where Yunho wasn’t an idol, a celebrity, a “role model”. At home, Yunho was just Yunho. Yunho was a human and nothing more.

Yunho remembered the first time he realized what “home” meant to him; when he realized how much he loved home.

“You okay?” Changmin whispered. He had his arms wrapped around Yunho, the older one leaning heavily on him as the two of them sat on the couch. Neither of them had much energy left. This whole ordeal was exhausting for the both of them, and they knew it would only get worse, so much worse, before it got better.

But Yunho nodded anyway. He was okay now. He was always okay when he knew Changmin was there for him.

“Do you need me to do anything for you?” Changmin asked desperately.

Yunho wasn’t sure why Changmin was so insistent on taking care of him that day. Yunho was hurt and devastated, but so was Changmin. “Let’s just stay like this for a while,” Yunho pleaded. Changmin wanted to help Yunho so badly, but Changmin didn’t realize how much he was already helping Yunho by staying with him right now.

“Yunho,” Changmin said softly. He felt his shirt becoming wet with Yunho’s tears once again. Changmin hated seeing Yunho so defeated. But he was relieved that Yunho wasn’t trying to hold all his emotions in. He was glad Yunho didn’t feel the need to be strong, especially at a time like this. Yunho didn’t need to act strong right now. He needed to be comforted.

Changmin would gladly step up to do just that.

“You’ve done nothing wrong...in any of this.”

Yunho remained silent. How could Changmin say something like that after Yunho messed everything up so badly?

“None of this is your fault,” Changmin continued. “I want you to remember that. I want you to believe that.”

Yunho squeezed his eyes shut. It was really hard to believe something like that. Something he had been responsible for, something he put his blood, sweat, and tears into, had just shattered right in front of him. He had never felt so powerless.

If he wasn’t careful, he could lose Changmin, and Yunho wasn’t ready for that.

“I’m right here, Yunho,” Changmin said, as if he had read Yunho’s mind. His voice was cracking as tears started to fall from his eyes as well. He hated that he was still crying over this, and he wondered if there would be a day when he didn’t cry over it. “I’m here and I’ll always be here. I promise.”

Home is, to Yunho, where he could go to after completely ruining everything, and still be loved and accepted.

Yunho wrapped his arms around Changmin’s waist, trying to seek as much comfort as possible from Changmin.

“I’m sorry, Changmin,” Yunho said anyway. Changmin had already reassured that there was nothing to apologize for, but Yunho still felt the need to say it.

Changmin didn’t say anything, but Yunho knew the maknae heard him.

Changmin needed comfort too, and Yunho suddenly felt selfish.

It was a hard time for the both of them, and even after the initial shock and cry fest ended, it didn’t get any easier.

Yunho released himself from Changmin’s hold, much to the maknae’s surprise.

He cupped his hand to Changmin’s cheek, using his thumb to wipe the tears from his face.

Yunho couldn’t help but feel that he was the cause of Changmin’s tears.

Yunho hated when Changmin cried. Changmin deserved to be happy. Changmin was a light in Yunho’s life, and it made his heart ache whenever he saw Changmin be sad.

Home is, to Yunho, where, even when life gets hard, he could still find a sliver of hope.

“Changmin,” Yunho said quietly. The younger one was trying to force his tears to stop, but was failing miserably.

On any other occasion, Yunho would have laughed.

The two of them were so stubborn it was stupid.

Both of them were trying to be strong for the other, but the efforts were only making them want to cry even more.

“I haven’t seen you eat all day,” Changmin suddenly pointed out. He started frantically wiping the remaining tears from his face. “That isn’t healthy. Lemme make you something to eat, okay?”

Yunho didn’t reply. He really wasn’t hungry, not with everything going on right now. But Changmin didn’t like it when Yunho rejected his food. Changmin didn’t need to be hurt anymore than he already was.

Changmin slowly separated from Yunho, rising off the couch and heading straight to the kitchen.

Yunho wondered where Changmin was going to get the energy to make dinner for the two of them.

Usually, when they were this tired, they would just order for delivery and all their problems were solved.

They couldn’t do that, not right now. Facing the public seemed virtually impossible, even if it was just a lone delivery man who didn’t even have an idea of what was going on.

“Oh!” Yunho heard Changmin say. “We still have some udon in the fridge.”

Yunho got off the couch and made his way to the kitchen as well. He walked up behind Changmin, who was transferring some udon onto a pot on the stove.

“I know you don’t have much of an appetite,” Changmin said, his eyes still glued to the stove. “Just eat as much as you can.”

“Let’s watch a movie,” Yunho suggested quietly. “I want to watch a movie.”

Maybe a movie will help take his mind away from all of this. Changmin and a funny movie would be a temporary cure for what looked like a lifetime of heartache.

“We can watch a movie,” Changmin agreed.

“Do we have ice cream?” Yunho asked.

Changmin nodded.

“I want ice cream too,” Yunho said.

Changmin stopped what he was doing and released a sigh.

He set the stove to a lower temperature and turned around to face Yunho.

“Ice cream sounds nice,” He said with a smile.

Changmin bit his lip before his eyes averted to the ground.

“Changmin?” Yunho asked. He was concerned about Changmin’s sudden change in demeanor.

Changmin bit his lip.

“Talk to me, Changmin,” Yunho begged. He needed to hear Changmin’s voice.

“It’s...yesterday…” Changmin trailed off.

That didn’t narrow down much of everything. Yesterday was filled with more tears, breakdowns, and mental collapses.

“You said you’d never go anywhere,” Changmin explained. “Remember that?”

Yunho nodded. He remembered it all too well. He remembered how inconsolable the two of them were. He remembered Changmin desperately clinging to Yunho every minute because he was afraid Yunho would somehow vanish into thin air.

“You promise?” Changmin asked. He sounded like a child. Yunho would have thought that was adorable if this whole situation wasn’t so pathetic.

Yunho nodded. “I promise, Changmin,” he reassured. “I won’t go anywhere even if you try to force me to.”

Changmin released a sob as he slowly wrapped his arms around Yunho once more.

“I’ll stay with you too,” Changmin hiccuped. “Please don’t leave me. I’ll do whatever it takes to make you stay.”

“I’m not leaving,” Yunho promised once more.

“I’m not leaving,” Changmin repeated. “I’m not leaving.”

Yunho wasn’t sure how long the two of them stood in the middle of the kitchen like this. He did remember Changmin jumping when the two of them started smelling something burning on the stove. They laughed as they wiped their swollen faces and decided that just having ice cream for dinner would suffice.

All that was important was that Changmin was right there, and that’s all Yunho needed to know that night.

Home is where Yunho was constantly reminded that everything was going to be okay.

Home is, to Yunho, wherever Changmin was.

Chapter Text

Yunho could never get used to it, no matter how many times it happened.

He couldn’t sleep.

His body was breaking apart, begging for even an hour of rest.

But when Yunho finally got into bed, he’d lay down, eyes wide open, praying he could shut down and sleep.

He’d toss and turn, hoping he’d find the perfect position to just fall into a deep sleep; other nights, he’d end up laying on his back and staring at the ceiling.

He could handle the first couple of nights, but eventually, he felt as if he would drop dead if he didn’t get a solution.

Yunho started to feel hazy; there was a fogginess in his brain that was almost debilitating. He couldn’t think clearly, could barely understood what was going on in his surroundings, and always felt as if the world was tilting incorrectly.

Yunho hated the exhaustion. It felt as if something was quickly sucking the energy right out of him. Simple tasks he could easily do without effort were suddenly so much harder.

“Maybe you should sit down,” Changmin suggested as he clumsily guided Yunho to the couch of the recording studio.

Yunho practically fell onto the couch and Changmin noticed that Yunho didn’t even put up a fight.

“You need to get home, Yunho,” Changmin said as he handed Yunho his water bottle.

“I can finish,” Yunho insisted before accepting the bottle and taking a large sip. “I’ll just sit here for a few minutes.”

Changmin bit his lip, and Yunho immediately know the maknae was doubting his words.

“Really, Changmin,” Yunho said with a laugh.

Changmin sighed. There really was no arguing with Yunho. He was too stubborn to admit defeat, even against himself.

“We finish this set,” Changmin surrendered. “Then you go home.”

“Changmin-”

Only this set.”

Yunho appreciated Changmin’s care, he really did. However, it was all for nothing. Sleep had become impossible for Yunho, and even if he had gone home after this, he’d just be at home laying down, praying for sleep that probably wouldn’t come. But Changmin had taken charge, and there was no stopping him. Yunho had to give into the maknae’s command, because Yunho had no energy for a debate.

They were in the studio for another hour before Changmin called it quits.

When the two of them arrived at Yunho’s house, Changmin immediately forced Yunho into his own bedroom.

“Change into your pajamas and I’ll make you something to eat, okay?” Changmin said.

Yunho nodded before heading into his closet to fetch a change of clothes.

Changmin, on the other hand, went straight to the kitchen and rummaged through whatever food Yunho had in his fridge and cabinets.

Even if Yunho couldn’t sleep, at least Changmin knew he could get Yunho to eat.

Between the dishes in the sink and the low supply of food, however, Changmin couldn’t believe a grown man was actually choosing to live like this.

Changmin sighed, deciding to order food instead.

“I haven’t done shopping in a while,” an apologetic voice from behind said, causing Changmin to jump and turn around. Yunho was there, his hand rubbing the back of his neck in embarrassment. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Changmin replied. He pulled out his phone. “I’ll order takeout instead.”

He started leading Yunho back into his bedroom.

“Why don’t you lay down while we wait for the food?”

“I can’t sleep,” Yunho informed. Nevertheless, he obeyed Changmin, slowly crawling onto the mattress as if he were ready to prove to Changmin that he really couldn’t sleep.

“How long this time?” Changmin asked as he sat down on the edge of the bed.

Yunho knitted his eyebrows in confusion. “What day is it?”

Changmin felt his body grow cold. Yunho seemed almost disoriented.

“Wednesday,” Changmin answered.

“Then...then since last Tuesday, I think.” He draped his arm over his eyes. “I’m so tired.”

“I know,” Changmin muttered. He felt his heart ache at Yunho’s answer. How was Yunho even still standing?

He felt powerless. Changmin desperately wanted to help Yunho, but didn’t know how.

Whenever Yunho had these long bouts of insomnia, Changmin would try to so hard to figure out a solution to Yunho’s problem. Cutting out caffeine, making changes in Yunho’s diet and exercise routine, and trying melatonin tablets. Changmin researched various sleep remedies and made Yunho try each of them.

Nothing worked.

Sometimes, Yunho’s nights without sleep lasted so long that Changmin was worried that Yunho would just drop dead because of it.

Yunho rolled onto his side, facing Changmin.

These sleepless nights were happening more frequently, and Changmin couldn’t even begin to narrow down a cause.

“Maybe we should take you to a doctor,” Changmin advised. “Therapy maybe? Yunho I honestly don’t know what to do I-”

“Changmin.” Yunho moved his hand to grab hold of Changmin’s. “Please don’t worry about me.”

How exactly could Changmin adhere to that?

“I ordered some food for the both of us,” Changmin said, deciding to ignore Yunho’s request for now. “Let’s get some food in you and then we’ll try something else, okay?”

“A lot of people have insomnia,” Yunho pointed out. “They live just fine with it. I can too.”

But Yunho shouldn’t have to live with that; no one should. And Changmin knew that no one could live “just fine” with insomnia.

“I’ll look for a doctor you can talk to,” Changmin continued. “We’ll schedule an appointment for you.”

Yunho sighed. He wanted to send Changmin home.

It wasn’t that Yunho hated having Changmin around; he loved the younger one’s company. But Yunho didn’t want Changmin to be here and waste his time fretting over him.

The doorbell rang, signaling that their food had arrived.

Changmin quickly answered the door, paid for the food, and made his way back to Yunho’s room.

Changmin wasn’t so sure why he expected Yunho to have fallen asleep during that moment he went to go answer the door, but Changmin was extremely devastated when he came back to Yunho’s room, the leader still wide awake and waiting to be fed.

“Ooh I smell beef,” Yunho excitedly said. He sat up, accepting the takeout container from Changmin.

At least Yunho was eating as he normally did. If his insomnia was caused by some kind of emotional stress, Yunho’s stomach hadn’t seemed to be effected yet. That’s one less thing Changmin needed to worry about for now. That still didn’t stop Changmin from sending several worried glances his way as they ate, unfortunately.

Changmin smiled in content as he watched Yunho eat his food to the very last bite.

Changmin wasn’t even bothered by the fact that Yunho was sloppily eating a meal while in bed.

“I just want you to know,” Changmin placed his emptied takeout container on the floor. “If you discover whatever is keeping you up at night, you can always come to me to talk about it.”

Yunho smiled. “I know,” he replied. “Thank you.”

Changmin pulled out his phone. “I’m going to start looking for doctors,” he said. “This can’t go on any longer.”

Yunho silently agreed with Changmin. He didn’t want this to go any longer either. Yunho wasn’t his best when he was like this. But if Yunho couldn’t even figure why his own body wasn’t following his commands, how would the doctor be able to?

“I fall asleep eventually,” Yunho randomly said. “I go days without sleeping and then suddenly I kind of...shut down, I guess.” He placed his empty takeout container onto the floor before laying back down again. “I just spend every night hoping it’ll happen.”

Changmin adjusted his position, making him sit parallel to Yunho. He started stroking Yunho’s hair. He wished Yunho could be as relaxed as possible, but he was really running out of ideas to try.

“I always feel relaxed when you’re around,” Yunho muttered, as if he had just read Changmin’s mind. “Maybe with you here I can finally sleep.”

Changmin hoped so; he really did. “So you can’t sleep because you miss me?”

“Probably,” Yunho answered with a laugh.

Changmin wasn’t sure if Yunho was joking or not. All Changmin did know was that he was here to help Yunho, and he would do anything he could.

Changmin laid down. The two of them moved to lay on their sides and face each other.

“I feel calm already,” Yunho said with a smile.

“Remember when I’d wake you up at night because I couldn’t sleep?” Changmin asked. “God, I was so annoying.”

Yunho laughed. “I’d wake up to you shaking me,” he added. “I thought the dorm was on fire or something.” Yunho moved Changmin’s hair from his face. “And I didn’t think you were annoying. I thought it was really cute that you always came to me when you had a bad dream. It made me feel...needed...I guess.”

I still need you, Changmin wanted to say, but for some reason, the words were stuck in the back of his throat.

“I hated seeing you so scared, though,” Yunho continued.

“When I was scared, you were the only thing that made me feel safe,” Changmin confessed. “That’s why I always came to you.”

“I loved those night where you would just crawl into my bed and curl up next to me,” Yunho said.

“I always felt guilty for waking you up,” Changmin explained. “So I’d just lay next to you and it made me feel better too. I guess I was still waking you up anyway.”

“It’s okay, Min,” Yunho said. “Like I said, I loved you coming to me.”

Changmin smiled. “I’m going to help you fall asleep, okay? Just like you did for me.”

Yunho believed him; why shouldn’t he?

The first few minutes consisted of Yunho shifting positions on the mattress, searching for the most comfortable position he could manage.

The two of them just ended up being clumsily tangled in each others’ arms.

Yunho sighed as he closed his eyes. Changmin felt so warm, and Yunho felt the strain in his body melt away.

Changmin was humming a soft melody, and with every passing second, Yunho felt sleep slowly creeping in.

“Changmin,” Yunho whispered. “Thank you so much.”

Changmin was in the middle of his third song before Yunho was finally lulled into a blissful slumber.

Chapter Text

When Yunho came back from the hospital, the dorm was unusually quiet.

Between the five of them, there was never peace in the dorm. It was always so loud and full of activity.

Tonight was different.

The strangest thing, however, was Yunho.

The usually vibrant, confident leader was silent and very subdued.

“You need to eat something,” Jaejoong urged.

Yunho shook his head, his face practically turned green at the suggestion. “My stomach still feels weird.”

“Maybe you could-”

“I just want to shower...and sleep?” Yunho said. It almost sounded like he was begging for their permission to do so.

Changmin shivered as he watched Yunho slowly walk into the hallway without saying a word.

“Is he okay?” Junsu asked, his voice shaking with fear.

The four of them were silent. They knew the answer to that question was a definite “no”, but none of them wanted to say it. None of them wanted to actually admit that Yunho was not okay. None of them wanted to admit that Yunho probably wouldn’t be okay for a very long time.

It was no surprise that Yunho would be like this, but that didn’t mean they would be fully prepared to finally face this.

“What do we do?” Yoochun asked. He felt defeated; they all did.

“We be there for him,” Jaejoong answered. He tried to sound confident, but the others could hear the fear in his voice too.

Changmin felt powerless and he hated it. He wanted to do everything he could to heal Yunho from everything, but he didn’t know how.

Changmin was the first one to notice that something was wrong that night. He was the one that saw Yunho coughing violently blood into his hand. Changmin was the one who screamed for someone to call an ambulance as Yunho’s legs gave out from under him.

All five of them, however, were waiting anxiously in the hospital as they waited for news on Yunho’s condition.

That was the hardest three hours of their lives.

Changmin shuddered as he thought back to that day.

“Are you okay, Min?” Jaejoong asked, getting closer to Changmin and placing a hand on Changmin’s back.

Changmin swallowed. “I’m fine,” he replied. As fine as he could ever be at a time like this, he supposed.

“I’ll make us some dinner,” Jaejoong muttered as he left the living room and entered the kitchen.

Yoochun turned on the TV. The dorm was too quiet, and it was starting to get to him.

Even dinner wasn’t eventful tonight, the four of them lifelessly picked at their food, not even speaking to each other because they still couldn’t believe they had almost lost Yunho.

With a sigh, Changmin rose from the table and made his way into the hallway. He headed to the bedroom; he had to check on Yunho; he had to make sure he was alright.

He slowly opened the bedroom door. The lights in the bedroom were off, and he could see that Yunho was already tucked into bed. He was laying on his side, his back to Changmin, and was incredibly still.

“Yunho,” Changmin said quietly. “Are...are you still awake?”

There was no response from Yunho at first, causing Changmin to believe that Yunho really had succeeded in falling asleep.

Changmin was about to leave the room and close the door before he heard a quiet “yeah.”

Changmin slowly approached Yunho’s bed and sat down.

Yunho’s back was still toward him, and Changmin was really worried that Yunho hadn’t made any effort to be close to him or even look at him like Yunho normally did.

Changmin made the haunting realization that he had no idea what to say to Yunho. “I’m glad you’re okay”? Yunho definitely wasn’t okay. “Please eat something”? Yunho would probably kick him out.

“Please don’t shut us out, Yunho,” Changmin finally managed to say. “We’re all here for you and I need to make sure you know that. You can always turn to us, Yunho. That’s...that’s what a family does.”

“You’ve always led us so well,” Changmin continued. “You’ve done it so well that I think you forgot what it was like to show weakness or to let yourself rely on someone. But I don’t want you to forget that, okay? You mean so much to me...to us...and we should always be available to you just like you’ve always been available to us.”

Changmin wasn’t sure if Yunho was still listening; he wasn’t sure if Yunho was even awake.

“I’m really sorry for everything you’ve been through. You don’t deserve this and it isn’t fair. Just please don’t forget that we love you so much. I’m so blessed to have you in my life, and what happened won’t change my mind one bit.”

If anything, it made Changmin realize even more how much Yunho meant to him. Yunho could have died, and Changmin didn’t know if he could ever live his life without Yunho with him. Changmin didn’t know how terrified he was of losing Yunho until that night.

Changmin stood up. By now he felt as if he were wearing out his welcome.

“I’ll let you get some rest,” Changmin stood up. “But just remember that I will do everything I can to help you.”

Changmin left the room after that, leaving right on time to not hear any of Yunho’s sobs.


 

Two days later, and Yunho still wasn’t eating.

But Changmin wasn’t going to give up.

He walked into the bedroom and approached Yunho’s bed. The leader didn’t have energy to do much of anything. He was always in bed, and barely left the bedroom.

Changmin carried a sandwich in one hand and a bottle of water in the other.

“I...I thought you’d be hungry,” Changmin said as he kneeled on the floor in front of Yunho.

“I’m not,” Yunho muttered.

“Yunho. You haven’t eaten since…” Changmin stopped himself. He didn’t know how to bring it up, and he didn’t want to.

Yunho scoffed. “Since when?” he questioned. He sat up, looking Changmin dead in the eyes. “Since I was poisoned? Since I was stupid enough to accept anything from that psycho?”

“Yun-Yunho I-”

“I didn’t even do anything to her,” Yunho continued. “She just hated my existence so much that she wanted me dead! How is that fair?”

“It’s not,” Changmin replied. He wasn’t sure if Yunho’s question was rhetorical, but he was glad Yunho had allowed him to speak. “It’s not fair one bit.”

“I was so stupid,” Yunho continued. He put his hands to his head and tightly fisted his hair. “How could I have been so stupid?”

“No, Hyung, please don’t blame yourself for this,” Changmin begged. “You didn’t do anything wrong I need you to understand that.”

Yunho hugged his knees to his chest. “She...she tried to kill me.” He rested his forehead to his knees. “She actually tried to kill me.”

Changmin realized that Yunho, probably for the first time in his life, felt weak and vulnerable, and had no idea how to process any of this. For the first time Yunho encountered a problem that he couldn’t fix by himself.

Changmin climbed onto the bed and sat in front of Yunho. “I’m sorry we couldn’t keep you safe.”

Yunho gasped as he looked to Changmin. “There’s no way you could have-”

“There’s no way you could have known,” Changmin interrupted. “We accept gifts all the time. How could you have possibly known that-” Changmin bit his lip when his eyes started watering up “-that she’d actually…”

He just couldn’t say it.

Yunho brought his hand to Changmin’s face and wiped a stray tear that fell from the maknae’s eye.

Changmin shook his head. Yunho wasn’t supposed to be comforting him right now. It should be the other way around, like Changmin had promised.

“She shouldn’t have done that to you,” Changmin continued. “If I could, I’d do anything to go back and stop you from going through that pain.”

“Changmin, please,” Yunho whispered. He wanted Changmin to just stop; stop crying, stop speaking, stop worrying.

Changmin sighed. He held Yunho’s face in his hands, forcing the leader to look him straight in the eyes. “Yunho, I need you to listen to me. You have a beautiful heart; you always have. You always try to look for the good in everyone, even when I tell you how stupid it is. Please don’t let what this girl did to you take that away. Don’t let her take away the best thing you’ve always had.” Changmin sat closer to Yunho and forced the older one into a tight hug. “Yunho. Don’t let her win. Please.”


 

As it turned out, Yunho and Changmin had different definitions of what it meant to not let her win.

The next day, Yunho made an announcement that completely boggled Changmin’s mind.

“You won’t press charges?” Changmin asked. He wasn’t sure how he should feel about that. The girl deserved to be punished; she almost killed someone, and now she’ll get away with it without any repercussions?

“She’s so young,” Yunho pointed out. “I can’t ruin her life like this.”

“She’s old enough to know that what she did was wrong!” Changmin argued. “You don’t want to ruin her life? Well she almost ended yours.”

Yunho sighed, the creases between his eyebrows became even more evident. “I just want to stop thinking about this,” Yunho confessed. “I’m so tired, Changmin. I want this whole thing behind me.”

Changmin nodded. He had so much fight left in in him. If this whole thing were left to him, Changmin would have had that girl thrown into jail as long as possible.

But he knew he shouldn’t try to force Yunho to change his decision.

If there’s anything Yunho deserved, it was peace of mind.

“Thank you, Changmin,” Yunho said. “I’ve appreciated everything you’ve done for me these past couple of days. I know it wasn’t easy.”

“I don’t know if you heard what I say the first night you came home,” Changmin began. “But I meant what I said when I told you that I’ll always be here for you. You deserve to be taken care of, just like you’ve always taken care of us.”

Yunho pulled Changmin into a hug, holding the maknae tightly.

Changmin didn’t hesitate to return the hug. This was the first time Yunho had initiated such contact with anyone since he returned from the hospital.

Changmin knew this wouldn’t be the end; Yunho still had a lot of healing to do.

“Yunho,” Changmin said, still wrapped in Yunho’s hold. “I need to know. Are you okay?”

Yunho was silent for a while, and Changmin was afraid of what that meant.

“I can’t lie to you, Min,” Yunho replied. “I...I don’t think I am.” He sighed, slowly releasing his hold on Changmin. His eyes were glued to his lap as he played with his fingers.

Changmin had never seen Yunho like this.

“I see food and drinks and think it’s been poisoned,” Yunho continued. “I...I know how stupid that sounds, but I...I just do.”

“That’s not stupid,” Changmin countered. “Especially after what you went through. It’s not stupid at all.” He grabbed one of Yunho’s hands. “Is that why you haven’t been eating anything?”

Yunho nodded.

Changmin had already guessed that was the reason, but Yunho actually admitting it still shocked Changmin.

“I want to move forward, but I can’t even put something in my mouth without thinking I could die because of it.”

“And you can die from not eating, Yunho,” the maknae reminded him.

Yunho scoffed. “I’m hopeless, Changmin.”

“No you’re not,” Changmin argued. “You’re hurt. There’s a big difference.”


 

“It’s okay, Yunho,” Changmin said, taking a bite out of his chocolate bar. He noticed Yunho almost try to stop him before going still once more. “I bought it at the store. Take some.” He broke off a piece of the chocolate and handed it to Yunho.

Yunho just stared at the chocolate.

“Eat it,” Changmin urged. “It tastes so good. You eat these all the time, remember?”

Yunho does remember. He remembered how many times he bought home several of these chocolate bars. He especially remembered going crazy whenever Changmin stole some of them.

With shaking hands, Yunho took the piece of chocolate and put it in his mouth.

Changmin smiled as he watched Yunho chew and swallow the candy. “It’s good, right?”

Yunho nodded.

Changmin grabbed Yunho’s hand, forcing him into the kitchen.

“Changmin. What-?”

“I’m hungry,” Changmin cut off.

Yunho sat at the kitchen table and Changmin made his way to the cabinets and pulled out a bowl of microwavable ramen. He quickly ate the rest of the chocolate before presenting the ramen to Yunho. “Want some?” he asked, turning to Yunho.

Yunho didn’t answer, and Changmin couldn’t help but worry once more.

Changmin put water in the ramen bowl and stuck it in the microwave.

“Changmin,” Yunho said. He slowly stood up as he felt his stomach churn. “I think I’m going to rest for a while-”

“Wait,” Changmin begged, causing Yunho to freeze. “Can you stay with me a little while longer? It’s been a while since we hung out properly.”

Yunho felt his heart break at the desperation in Changmin’s eyes. He nodded in surrender, sitting back down and waiting with Changmin as the food heated in the microwave.

“There’s a daily drama I’ve been watching,” Changmin explained. “You should watch it with me. In today’s episode, I’m pretty sure the main character is going to find out that he’s adopted.” He pulled his food out of the microwave and once again dragged Yunho with him.

“He doesn’t know his classmate is his sister,” Changmin continued to rave about the drama as the two of them sat down on the couch. “But his classmate was able to figure it out but she doesn’t know how to tell him.”

Yunho sighed, leaning on Changmin as they watched the drama begin.

“That rich girl looks so pretty,” Changmin said before bringing some noodles to his mouth. “Doesn’t she?”

Yunho nodded.

Changmin ate a few more bites of his noodles before holding the bowl to Yunho.

Yunho looked at Changmin in confusion.

“Try some, Yunho,” Changmin urged. “It’s really good.”

Yunho shook his head. “Finish your food, Min,” he replied. “You need to eat.”

“So do you,” Changmin replied. “Take some, you’ll love it.”

Yunho stared at the bowl for several seconds before looking at Changmin again. He took the bowl, using the chopsticks to put some noodles in his mouth.

“Do you know what a cupbearer is?” Changmin randomly asked.

Yunho swallowed his food. “He was someone who served wine to the king,” he answered.

“Yeah. But he did more than that,” Changmin replied. “He was one of the people the king trusted the most. The cupbearer would eat or drink whatever food was presented to the king to make sure someone hadn’t tried to poison the king.”

Yunho was quiet as he tried to figure out why Changmin was telling him all this.

“Do you trust me, Yunho?”

Yunho nodded. “Of course I do.”

“I promise no one will hurt you like that again,” Changmin assured. “Even if that means drinking poison myself.”

“Changmin-”

“You don’t deserve to be hurt like this,” Changmin continued. “If that means I have to be your personal cupbearer, then so be it.”

“You shouldn’t have to do that, Min.”

“And you shouldn’t be afraid to do something as necessary as eating and drinking.”

Yunho bit his lip. He knew Changmin was making a lot of sense, but the irrational part of his brain was still screaming.

“You and I have both eaten from that bowl and we’re okay,” Changmin pointed out. “Take another bite.”

Yunho hesitantly obeyed, bringing more noodles into his mouth before slowly chewing and swallowing. He takes a deep breath, and takes another bite.

Yunho repeats that process until finally, he’s holding an empty bowl in his hand.

Changmin is smiling brightly, and Yunho sighs in relief that he was able to finish his food without completely panicking.

“You’ll overcome this, Yunho,” Changmin said. “I know you will, and I’ll do everything I can to make that happen.”

Chapter Text

Neither of them were sure who had it the worst.

Sometimes, when it was really cold at night, Yunho would wake up to Changmin snatching his blanket and leaving the room without a word.

When Yunho would confront him about it the next morning, Changmin’s answer was simply a shrug and, “I got really cold and needed an extra one”, and that was the end of that.

Yunho knew that Changmin had several logical options; buy another blanket, turn on the space heater in his room, or put on an extra layer of clothes, to name a few.

None of those solutions came to Changmin’s mind, of course.

But Changmin’s actions didn’t bother Yunho one bit; if anything, it put a goofy smile on his face.

*

Somedays, Changmin would walk into his room and catch Yunho going through his collection of jewelry. After putting on his share of earrings, watches, bracelets, and rings, Yunho would glance in the mirror with a content smile on his face before noticing Changmin was standing at the doorway.

“You have so much jewelry and don’t wear most of it anyway,” Yunho explained casually. He glanced at the mirror to check his outfit once more and Changmin just rolled his eyes.

Maybe Yunho had a point, though. Now that Changmin thought about it, he did own a lot of accessories, and it was just better if someone used them instead of them just sitting there collecting dust.

Besides, Changmin couldn’t help but admit that Yunho had the power to make anything he wore look good. He just didn’t see the point in telling Yunho to put his stuff back.

*

Sometimes they went through each other’s things so much, they forgot who owned what.

“Is...is that my shirt?” Yunho asked Changmin one morning as the maknae walked into the kitchen.

Changmin paused, looking down at the blue and white baseball shirt he wore. “Maybe?” he answered, confused himself. Changmin wasn’t paying much attention when he was getting ready this morning.

Changmin was sure that he had seen Yunho wear this shirt once before, and now that Changmin thought about it, the shirt was a little big on him.

“You got this from some endorsement,” Changmin suddenly remembered.

Yunho laughed. “I almost forgot about that.”

“Do you want it back?” Changmin asked. “I think it got mixed up in the laundry again.”

Yunho shook his head. “It looks good on you,” he replied. “Keep it.”

Changmin smiled as his cheeks turned a soft shade of red. “Thanks.”

*

Other times, both of them had to admit that it was pretty weird.

“You wouldn’t have happened to see my red underwear, have you?” Changmin asked Yunho one morning.

Yunho blinked. “I...may or may not have done my laundry last night like I was supposed to...” He was really hoping Changmin wouldn’t notice, and Yunho realized how dumb he had been. This is Changmin he was facing, of course he would have noticed.

Changmin scoffed. “So you...took a pair of my underwear?”

Actually I took two pairs, Yunho supplied in his mind, but knew it was best to not admit that out loud. “Kind of like how you took mine when we were in Singapore?” he replied instead.

Changmin frowned.

Maybe bringing up Singapore was a bad idea? Yunho’s mouth worked faster than his brain sometimes.

Changmin just sighed. Singapore was a complete misunderstanding and there was really no need for Yunho to bring that up.

“Underwear is off limits from now on,” Changmin said with a frown. He made his way into the kitchen.

Yunho followed the maknae, wanting to make sure he wasn’t too upset. “Changmin-”

“And Singapore was an accident,” Changmin defended.

“I know it was,” Yunho replied. “But I still think it’s funny. You’re so cute when you’re delirious.”

Changmin pouted. “I don’t know how I missed the sleepwalking warning on my medication.”

“And I don’t know how the first thing your sleepwalking did was compel you to steal my underwear,” Yunho replied.

Changmin sighed, powerless to stop his face from turning red.

“You get so embarrassed easily,” Yunho teased. “Another adorable thing about you.”

Changmin rolled his eyes as Yunho helplessly giggled. “Just...keep the underwear,” he said, grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge and taking his leave.

*

“Lemme have some,” Yunho said.

“We ordered the exact same food,” Changmin pointed out. It was bad enough that Yunho had already stolen the maknae’s water bottle twice today. Now Yunho was going to steal his chicken too?

“So?” Yunho replied, reaching over and grabbing a chunk of chicken off Changmin’s plate.

Changmin’s mouth hung opened as he watched Yunho put the chicken in his own mouth.

“It always tastes better coming off of your plate, Changdola,” Yunho reasoned. He smiled, completely ignoring Changmin’s glare.

“It’s literally the same chicken - made by the same people,” Changmin emphasized.

“There’s no way all this meat came from one chicken, Changmin,” Yunho argued as he reached over to Changmin’s plate once again.

Changmin smacked his hand and moved his plate farther from Yunho’s reach.

“Ow, what was that for?” Yunho asked, rubbing his red hand with a pout.

“Eat your own food, Yunho!” Changmin demanded.

“Why are you being so greedy?” Yunho asked.

Changmin stared at Yunho in disbelief. “ I’m the greedy one?” he asked. “You’re the one stealing my food while you have your own food right in front of you.”

“This chicken is just so good,” Yunho explained. “There’s no way I can resist.”

Changmin sighed. He had no idea where Yunho’s logic came from, but he knew that nothing he said could change Yunho’s mind.

Rolling his eyes, he switched his plate with Yunho’s, watching as the leader’s eyes lit up as his “new” plate of food was placed in front of him.

Changmin shook his head as he watched Yunho happily eat his chicken.

“You make no sense, Yunho,” Changmin muttered. “No sense at all.”

*

The two of them had come home after another long day of practice. Changmin muttered a “just order the usual” before going to the bathroom to take a shower.

Changmin was too tired to even try to cook and Yunho couldn’t say that he blamed him. The two of them had spent a long ten hours at the studio and it almost seemed as if there was no end in sight.

Finally leaving the studio felt like the first breath of fresh air they had taken in years.

Yunho pulled out his phone and ordered the food. The two of them had always ordered the same things from their favorite restaurants that they automatically knew what the other one wanted.

Yunho was sure that if he were to take a shower right now, he’d end up passing out in the shower. He was so tired and really didn’t want to stand on his feet any longer than he had to.

Instead, Yunho went into his room and changed into his pajamas

Yunho heard Changmin’s shower end at the same time the doorbell rang.

“Food’s here, Changmin,” Yunho announced after he paid the delivery man.

Changmin at least had enough energy to rush into the living room upon that announcement.

Yunho noticed, beyond Changmin’s wet hair and flushed cheeks, that the younger one looked a little more refreshed than when they had first arrived.

He was donned in a pair of baggy pajama pants and a black oversized hoodie.

A hoodie that, Yunho noticed, didn’t belong to Changmin.

The maknae went straight to the couch, sinking into the cushions.

Changmin must have been more tired than Yunho thought.

Yunho handed Changmin his own container of food and sat next to him.

“I borrowed your hoodie,” Changmin said softly, assuming Yunho hadn’t already noticed. “I figured you wouldn’t mind.”

Yunho smiled. “Of course I don’t,” he replied.

“It’s so fuzzy,” Changmin commented before he started eating.

Yunho had always noticed that Changmin had an affinity to that particular hoodie. Whenever Changmin was sick and shivering with fever, he found warmth from that hoodie. Whenever Changmin was having a bad day, he’d get comfort from the woolly material.

Then there were some nights when Changmin was so tired and desperately wanted to sleep, and that hoodle would relax him so much he’d find himself falling asleep instantaneously.

“Finish eating up and then go to bed, okay?” Yunho suggested. “You worked really hard today.”

Changmin nodded, although Yunho was starting to wonder if Changmin even had the energy to even eat.

Before Yunho could stop himself, he placed his hand on Changmin’s forehead, wanting to be absolutely sure Changmin wasn’t getting sick.

“I’m fine,” Changmin reassured. “I just can’t believe I’m this tired. I’ve pulled longer days than this.”

The two of them ate their dinner, mostly in silence, with the exception of occasional comments from the two of them.

Once the food was completed, however, Changmin happily took Yunho’s suggestion and went straight to bed.

Yunho had offered to clean up the living room of all their trash and Changmin just forced himself for trust him, but Yunho kept his word.

He threw away all the bags and containers related to their dinner, washed a few stray items that were in the sink, and decided to call it a night himself.

Before he goes to bed, Yunho decides to check on Changmin.

Yunho laughed softly when he entered Changmin’s room. Changmin was fast asleep. Not only was he still wearing Yunho’s hoodie, he was also tangled up in Yunho’s blanket.

“Sleep tight, Changdola,” Yunho whispers as he leaves the room.

If Changmin stealing his stuff guaranteed that he would have a peaceful night, then Yunho couldn’t find a reason to complain.

Chapter Text

Yunho will never forget the first time Changmin said the words “I love you”.

Changmin had never been the type to outrightly say how he was feeling. Actions always spoke louder than words for Changmin.

Changmin constantly looking for Yunho’s approval was a sign of his love. Changmin didn’t care what everyone thought about him, but the closer Changmin was to a person, the more he wanted that person to be proud of everything he did.

Changmin grabbing Yunho’s hand when no one else was looking was a sign of his love. When Changmin cared for someone, Changmin wanted that person to know that he would always be by their side.

Changmin accepting Yunho’s hugs and cuddles was a sign of his love. Changmin was more emotional than he let on. He absolutely loved it when a person he cared about showed him how much they loved him back.

Changmin seeking out Yunho after having a bad dream was a sign of his love. Changmin always found security from the people he loved.

Yunho, on the other hand, had always been a lot more transparent.

Yunho had no problem ever saying “I love you” to the people it mattered most. Changmin had heard Yunho say it so much and Changmin wondered why Yunho felt the need to always announce that.

However, Yunho always made sure that his words matched his actions.

No one ever had to guess if Yunho actually meant it or if he was just saying it out of routine, because he did everything he could to make sure that the people he loved knew how much he meant it.

While Yunho knew that Changmin cared for him deeply, it really was nice to hear Changmin say “I love you”.

The eighteen and twenty year old were sitting at the rooftop of their dorm one night when it finally happened.

Yunho had noticed something wrong with Changmin for weeks, but the proud maknae wasn’t ready to admit that something was wrong.

So when the maknae snuck out while the other four were busy rummaging the kitchen for snacks after a long day of practice, Yunho noticed almost immediately.

Yunho walked up behind Changmin, placing the thin blanket on the maknae’s shoulders.

Changmin jumped as he turned around, but let out a breath of relief upon realizing that it was Yunho.

“You’ll catch cold,” Yunho gently scolded as he sat next to Changmin.

“How’d you know where to find me?” Changmin asked.

“You’re not so sneaky,” Yunho answered with a smile. “But seriously, Changmin. What’s been going on with you?”

Changmin shook his head. “Nothing,” he replied, looking out into the city.

“Liar.”

“I’m not lying,” Changmin defended. “I’m okay I just...need some rest.”

Yunho nodded. Of course Changmin needed that right now; they all needed that. But Yunho was pretty sure that if rest was truly all that Changmin needed, then he would be in bed right now with his headphones on to drown out any noise.

Changmin looked to his lap, playing with his fingers. Yunho noticed Changmin’s change of behavior almost immediately. He slowly reached over and grabbed one of Changmin’s hands, holding it tightly.

“I’m here for you,” Yunho said. “I always will be, and I want to help you as much as possible.”

“I know,” Changmin said.

“Can I try helping you now?” Yunho asked.

Changmin bit his lip. Yunho always felt that was his job. He always felt as if it was his responsibility to fix everything. Changmin hated bothering Yunho with his petty problems because Yunho already had so much to deal with. It wasn’t fair to pile on even more.

“I’m okay, Yunho,” Changmin insisted. “You don’t have to worry about me.”

“That’s too bad,” Yunho replied. “Because I’ll always worry about you anyway. I worry about everyone I love. Why should my Changminnie be an exception?” Yunho wrapped his arms around Changmin’s shoulders and pulled him close.

Changmin instantly relaxed in Yunho’s hold; he always did. He sighed as he leaned his body on Yunho’s.

“Is there something going on in school?” Yunho asked.

“School’s fine,” Changmin replied, although his answer came out a little too quickly to sound like the truth.

Yunho wasn’t convinced. “Changmin-”

“My grades are still good,” Changmin insisted. “I promised I’d keep them up and I have.”

Yunho nodded. It was no surprise to him that Changmin was doing so well with his school work. He was so smart, Yunho knew academics would never be a problem for him.

“How are they treating you?” Yunho asked.

Changmin shrugged. “Fine, I guess.”

“Just fine?” Yunho prodded. “Are you making friends? Have you been taking enough food? I know you get hungry easily. And do you need-”

“Yunho,” Changmin said with a laugh. “I’m fine. Really.”

“Yeah, Changmin’s a tough guy,” Yunho teased, a big grin on his face. He released Changmin and sighed. “We should probably head to bed soon - you especially. You’ve had a really long day.”

Yunho was making his way to stand up before he felt Changmin fist his shirt.

“Changmin? Everything okay?”

“Why do you always say that you love me?”

The question caught Yunho so off guard, he wasn’t sure he had heard it correctly. “What?”

“Why do you always tell me you love me?” Changmin repeated. “You...you tell all of us that. Why?”

“Because it’s true,” Yunho answered simply. “I love you, I love the guys, I love my family. All of you need to know that.”

Yunho grew nervous at Changmin’s silence.

“Changmin,” Yunho said, grabbing Changmin’s hand tightly. “You believe that, don’t you? You believe how much I love you, right?”

Changmin nodded hesitantly, and Yunho grew worried at Changmin’s silence.

Yunho suddenly couldn’t breathe. The worries and possibilities formed a whirlpool in Yunho’s head. Did Changmin feel unloved? For how long? Was someone telling Changmin that no one loved him? Maybe it was something he had done. He had been spending less time with Changmin lately… Did Changmin feel ignored because of that?

“Changmin,” Yunho said again. “You do believe that, right?”

Changmin nodded. “It’s...it’s nice to hear sometimes,” he confessed, tightening his grip on Yunho’s hand.

“Good,” Yunho replied with a smile. “Because now I’ll never stop saying it.”

Changmin laughed. He had a feeling that was a promise Yunho intended to keep. It made everything so much better.

He hugged Yunho, catching the leader by surprise. “Changmin-”

“I love you too, Hyung,” Changmin blurted out. “I love you so much.”

Yunho could hear Changmin’s voice shaking and knew something was wrong with him. He knew Changmin was trying so hard to hold back tears.

“What’s wrong, Changmin?” Yunho desperately asked. As much as he loved Changmin’s hugs, he hated seeing him like this.

Changmin shook his head as he broke off the hug. “Nothing,” he said. “Nothing at all. It’s just really nice to hear sometimes, you know?”

Yunho smiled. “I know,” he replied.

“Yunho,” Changmin said softly. “You’ll always love me, right?”

Now Yunho was really worried. “Of course I will,” he promised. He pulled Changmin into a hug once again. “I need you to be honest with me. Is there any reason why you would think there was ever a point when I didn’t love you? Did I do anything to make you doubt it?”

Changmin took in a deep breath. He was making Yunho feel bad and he absolutely hated it.

“Ignore me,” Changmin finally said. “I’m a little dumb sometimes.”

“You’re not dumb,” Yunho countered. “Don’t ever call yourself that.”

The two of them sat in silence for a few minutes. Yunho was continuously rubbing Changmin’s back, and he could feel the maknae slowly becoming slack in his arms.

“Let’s get you to bed,” Yunho whispered. “You must be tired, right?”

Changmin made no effort to move.

“I saw that new manga you bought,” Yunho said. “You haven’t even started reading it. Let’s go to the room and read it together, okay?”

That suggestion snapped Changmin back into action. He slowly separated from Yunho’s hold. The two of them stood up and made their way back inside the dorm.

They weren’t surprised to see the other three members still in the living room. After a long day of practice, the five of them liked to laze around the living room and feel like a group of normal kids for just a few hours.

Yunho led Changmin straight to the bedroom, and Changmin crawled into bed without even changing into his pajamas.

Yunho didn’t feel the need to tell him otherwise.

Yunho went to the bookshelf and grabbed Changmin’s manga. “Still up for reading some of this?”

Changmin nodded. He scoot over, providing more space for Yunho on the bed.

Yunho accepted Changmin’s invite and laid on the bed, snuggling close to the maknae.

“Okay,” Yunho said excitedly as he opened the book to the first page. “Let’s see if this series will be any good.”

They went through the whole book, and by the time they made it to the last page, Changmin was ready to go to sleep.

Yunho climbed out of bed, making sure Changmin was properly covered by his blanket. “Good night, Changmin,” he said softly. “I love you.”

Changmin smiled, his eyes already closing. “I love you too, Yunho.”

Chapter Text

Changmin absolutely hated when Yunho drank.

It’s not because Yunho turned into an uncoordinated set of limbs whenever he was drunk (although, Changmin thought that in itself was a major inconvenience).

It’s because, when Yunho didn’t have a solution to a problem (something Changmin noticed was a rare occurrence), Yunho found every reason possible to hate himself. It’s as if his years worth of hard work and incredible accomplishments meant nothing to him sometimes.

So he would try to forget his failure.

So when Changmin first realized that Yunho’s depression resulted in him relying on alcohol, Changmin had no idea what to do.

Life had always been one way; something bad happened to Changmin, Yunho came to fix it. Changmin was having a hard time, Yunho came to make it better.

Changmin had no experience seeing Yunho this low, and he couldn’t believe he had even let Yunho get this low in the first place. Changmin felt that he was partially to blame; maybe if he had watched Yunho more closely, maybe if he had been a better support system, maybe if he did a better job at showing his appreciation for Yunho.

*

“He doesn’t hit you when he’s drunk...does he?” Kyuhyun hesitantly asked one night. The two of them were Changmin’s bedroom. Yunho was gone, and Changmin was anxiously awaiting his return.

Kyuhyun was afraid of the answer, Changmin could see it all over his face.

“Of course he doesn’t,” Changmin truthfully answered. He pretended not to notice Kyuhyun sigh in relief. “He never hurts me he just…” Changmin sighed. “He just drinks so much and I hate seeing him so sad.”

“Have you told him that?” Kyuhyun asked.

Changmin nodded. “I...I don’t know how to help him.” He hugged his knees to his chest, fighting the tears he knew were coming. He was tired of crying about all of this.

“He’s depressed,” Kyuhyun said, though that was something Changmin already knew. Yunho’s current state was no surprise to anyone.

Yunho woke up one morning and his life took a complete 180 as three of his band members left, and the whole nation of Korea turned their back on him and Changmin.

It was no wonder why Yunho was feeling like a complete failure.

There’s a knock at the front door and the two of them share a glance before getting up to answer it.

Changmin was greeted with an apologetic Donghae and Heechul, both of them holding up a drunk Yunho.

Changmin would have laughed at the scene if the urge to cry wasn’t so strong.

“Guys?” Kyuhyun asked in confusion at the sight of his two band members.

Yunho raised his head and smiled. “Heyyyy, Changmin,” he slurred.

“I’m so sorry,” Donghae said to Changmin. “We-”

“It’s okay.”

“We can put him to bed if you want,” Heechul offered.

Changmin wordlessly moved out of the way to let them in. Yunho mumbled something incoherent as the three of them stumbled past the living room and into the hallway.

“You okay?” Kyuhyun asked Changmin. He placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder.

“I’m okay,” Changmin said. “I...I should go check on Yunho. He falls asleep really easily but he has bad hangovers I need to help him change into his pajamas or he’ll sweat out his clothes and get sick and I need to make sure there’s a bin near his bed so he can-”

“Hey, Changmin,” Kyuhyun said sternly. He grabbed Changmin’s shoulders and gently shook him. “Breathe, okay?”

“The guys are here so we can stay and help you with whatever you need,” Kyuhyun reassured. “Just please don’t stress yourself out.”

Changmin bit his lip. He was flattered by the offer, but Yunho was his responsibility. It didn't feel right pushing their problems onto their friends. “I’m...I’m the only one Yunho has left I should be the one-”

“That’s where you’re wrong, Min,” Kyuhyun interrupted. “You’re not the only one Yunho has. He has us too, and we’re gonna help him, and you. You hear me?”

Changmin nodded, taking in a shaky breath.  “I need to see if he’s okay,” he whispered.

Kyuhyun respected Changmin’s wish. He led Changmin to the bedroom. The two of them walked in seeing Donghae and Heechul laying Yunho down. The two of them must have helped Yunho change clothes, because he was already clad in his pajamas.

Changmin muttered a soft “thank you” to the two of them, and just as Changmin predicted, Yunho fell asleep almost immediately.

*

Some nights weren’t always that easy.

Some nights, Yunho was on a rampage and anything Changmin said or did would set him off.

One night, after Yunho stumbled onto the living room couch, Changmin sighed as he took in Yunho’s current state of oblivion.

Changmin crouched down, putting a hand to Yunho’s face. “Yunho,” he said softly. “Let’s get you to bed, okay? You’ll be more comfortable.”

Yunho swatted Changmin’s hand away. “Lea’me alone,” Yunho muttered.

Changmin forced himself to pretend that didn’t hurt his feelings. “I just want you to be comfortable,” he replied.

Yunho scoffed. “If the couch was so uncomfortable I wouldn’t have chosen it,” he snarled.

“Yunho-”

Yunho groaned, clumsily sitting up. “Why can’t you ever mind your business? I was doing just fine before you came along.”

Changmin bit his lip. He was so exhausted. “Yunho please-”

“Shut up, Changmin!” Yunho snapped. “Just shut up!”

Changmin froze in shock. He knew Yunho most likely wouldn’t be speaking to him like this if he were sober, but it still hurt.

Changmin still had so much he needed to say to Yunho - please just listen to me; please stop drinking like this; please stop thinking that everyone has abandoned you when I’m sitting right here - but he knew it would be no use. Yunho wasn’t thinking clearly and wasn’t ready to listen to anything Changmin had to say.

The last time Changmin decided to take Yunho head on, the two of them got in an argument so bad Changmin had to spend the night at his parents’ house because Yunho couldn’t stand the thought of being in the same dorm as Changmin.

But the last thing Changmin wanted was for Yunho to push him away again.

Yunho stood up from the couch with a huff, and made his way to the bedroom.

Changmin could only watch with tears in his eyes as he watched Yunho walk away. He jumped when he heard the door slam, and Changmin knew that any conversation that they desperately needed to have was impossible for tonight.

Changmin climbed onto the couch instead. He laid down on his side and curled up into a tight ball.

Changmin cried himself to sleep that night, and prayed that Yunho wouldn’t hate him the next morning.

Thankfully, he never did.

*

Other nights, Yunho was more of a small, frightened child when he was drunk.

What was different these nights was that instead of Yunho falling asleep or adamantly demanding his privacy, he would cry himself to sleep, the only solace he got was from Changmin hugging him tightly.

It was heart wrenching to hear Yunho, choking on his sobs, begging Changmin not to leave him like the others did.

“I’m not, Yunho,” Changmin said as he hugged the leader tightly. “I already promised I wouldn’t.”

“I’ll do whatever you need me to do,” Yunho went on, as if he couldn’t hear anything Changmin was saying. “I’ll get better, I’ll work harder, I’ll do anything, I’ll-”

Changmin cut him off by gently shushing him. “It’s okay, Yunho. I’m here for you, okay?”

“You promise?” Yunho asked, fisting Changmin’s shirt.

Changmin was glad that his words were finally getting through to Yunho. “I promise, Hyung.”

Once that reassurance hit Yunho, his cries decreased immensely, and sleep followed rather quickly.

Changmin spent nights like these sleepless. Yunho would wake up in the middle of the night either violently throwing up, or crying from a nightmare of being completely abandoned.

Changmin didn’t want to risk Yunho going through any of that by himself.

So Changmin sat by his side throughout the night, rubbing his back and whispering reassurances whenever he noticed Yunho give the slightest sign of distress.

Yunho was broken, and Changmin wouldn’t mind sacrificing a few hours of sleep if it meant that Yunho knew how much he was loved.

“It’s okay, Yunho,” Changmin said softly as he brushed the leader’s sweaty bangs from his forehead. “It’s okay.”

Because everything would be okay. Changmin wasn’t sure how, but he was still sure of it, and that was enough for him.

*

Their mornings were usually the same, however.

Yunho would wake up terribly hungover; lethargic, his head violently pounding, and the room spinning in ways it wasn’t supposed to.

But one constant Yunho did appreciate, was Changmin sitting beside him, watching over him and waiting for him to wake up.

“Good morning, Yunho,” Changmin greeted softly. He always had water and aspirin ready, and Changmin would give it to Yunho as soon as his eyes opened.

This morning was no different. Yunho sat up and felt pills and a cup of water being shoved into his clumsy hands.

Yunho swallowed the medicine and took a sip of water before letting out a big sigh.

“You okay?” Changmin asked.

Yunho chuckled. “Sure,” he replied. He wasn’t okay, but it was his own fault, wasn’t it? He could suppose that his current state was much better than being dead, probably.

He laid back down. Maybe it was the hangover, or maybe it was just the way everything was right now, but Yunho just didn’t feel like doing anything today besides lay in bed and sleep.

“Here, Yunho,” Changmin said softly as he brought his fingers to Yunho’s temple and started massaging it.

Yunho sighed in content at the action. Changmin’s touch always had some sort of healing ability that Yunho couldn’t exactly explain.

“Thanks, Changmin,” Yunho muttered as he closed his eyes. He just wanted to go back to sleep and force this headache go away.

Yunho knew he was useless when he was drunk, but he also knew that he was even more useless when he was hungover.

“It’s okay, Yunho,” Changmin replied. “Just relax.”

Yunho tried to obey that command, he tried so hard.

“I’m sorry, Changmin,” Yunho said.

Changmin’s fingers froze. “Wh-what?”

“You’re always having to do this,” Yunho continued. He turned over on his side, his head close to Changmin’s lap. “You shouldn’t have to.”

Changmin started running his fingers through Yunho’s hair. “It’s okay, Yunho,” he reassured. “Just rest for now, okay? We’ll talk about this later.”

“I’ve really stressed you out, haven’t I?” Yunho continued.

Changmin shook his head. “Don’t worry, Yunho,” Changmin urged. “I know you’re hurting.”

“I don’t want you to leave me too.”

Yunho’s words were slurring again and Changmin noticed the older one’s eyelids getting heavier.

“I won’t leave you,” Changmin promised. He must have made that promise to Yunho a thousand times this past week alone. But he planned to keep making that promise until Yunho realized how serious he was.

Yunho was asleep again a few minutes later, and Changmin was so grateful for that, because he didn’t think he could take hearing anymore of Yunho’s self-hate.

Changmin ran his fingers through Yunho’s hair, wanting to make sure Yunho was absolutely asleep.

Changmin felt himself getting sleepy as well, but he couldn’t find it in his heart to sleep and leave Yunho alone just yet.

When Changmin promised Yunho he would never leave him, he meant it, every single time. He couldn’t bring back the other three members, but he would do everything he could to make sure Yunho didn’t feel alone.

Yunho used alcohol to self-medicate and forget his pain. Changmin would do anything to help Yunho heal.

They were going to heal together, and that was another promise Changmin intended to keep.

Chapter Text

Yunho always remembered the first time Changmin used aegyo to get what he wanted.

They were still trainees at the time, and Changmin was really hungry and desperate to eat some junk food, despite the fact that all of the trainees were supposed to be dieting as they got ready for their debut.

Yunho wasn't sure why of all people, Changmin went to him.

But when Changmin started pestering Yunho, begging the older one to accompany him (and pay for his food), Yunho said no, his resolve firm. All of them were supposed to be watching what they ate! Who did this kid think he was?

Oh. A kid who could eat eight times a day and not gain a single gram of weight.

Yunho wasn't so lucky, which is why he was so irritated that this kid would tempt him with junk food so late at night.

Yunho repeatedly said no, not surprised as Changmin continued to bug him..

Yunho just groaned. Why couldn't he ask Jaejoong, Jungsu? Even Donghae would be a better candidate.  As least those three would easily give in, and they didn't need to watch their weight as much as Yunho did.

Yunho sighed and rolled his eyes, slightly raising his voice as he clearly announced that there would be no snack buying tonight and that was final!

Yunho felt pride swelling up in his chest, glad that he was able to take a firm stand.

And then...Changmin did it.

It seemed that the younger boy's doe eyes seemed to get slightly bigger, something Yunho didn't think was possible. A glint of sadness appeared in the boy's eyes, and there was no way Yunho could ignore that.

Changmin's bottom lip got bigger as a small pout started to form on his lips. "Hyung," he whined, his demeanor making him seem younger than he already looked.

Aegyo. This brat was using aegyo.

Changmin’s aegyo must have come with some form of hypnosis, because Yunho found the two of them sneaking out of their dorms after midnight, grabbing enough food for just the two of them (Changmin had convinced Yunho to indulge just for tonight).

The money they spent on food ended up leaving Yunho with absolutely nothing in his wallet until further notice.

Sad to say, the punishment was even worse when they were caught sneaking back into their dorms, being scolded by their guardians for leaving so late.

Yunho wanted to scream and yell, tell them that it was all Changmin's fault and that there was nothing he could do to stop him.

Yunho ended up saying none of that. He glanced at Changmin and saw the frightened look in the younger one’s eyes and decided he couldn’t bear that sight anymore.

Yunho bowed politely, apologizing to their guardians for being so irresponsible, and promised to do whatever he could to make it up to them.

Apparently, that was what saved him from getting five beatings with the broomstick that night.

In their room, Changmin happily munched on his snacks, careful not to be too loud and wake up the others. Yunho sat next to him, glaring at the younger one for almost getting them in trouble.

"Thank you so much, Hyung," Changmin said with a big smile, showing his mismatched eyes in the process. He completely ignored his hyung's look of anger and offered him some chips instead.

Needless to say, Yunho stayed awake with Changmin until all of their snacks were devoured.

Yunho made sure to fit an hour jog the next morning.


 

It was a few months after they debuted when Junsu realized just how weak Yunho really was when it came to Changmin's aegyo. He had noticed everything; Changmin giving Yunho “a look”, Yunho rolling his eyes, and then Changmin getting whatever it was that he wanted almost instantly.

This case was no different.

The maknae needed a new mp3 player, his old one being broken beyond repair. (The result of a rough soccer game between the two maknaes. It was Changmin's fault that it broke, but of course he would never admit that).

As Changmin looked at his mp3 player, the remnants of the shattered device laying in his hand, one name came to mind.

"Yunho Hyung!" Changmin called out for the leader as he ran into their dorm, Junsu right behind him. He was greeted by the sight of Yoochun and Jaejoong on the couch watching a drama of some sort,  but Changmin didn't care at the moment.

He just wanted to find Yunho. This was urgent.

Changmin asked the two older ones where the leader was, stating he needed to speak to Yunho for something deathly important. Yoochun was the one to tell him that Yunho was showering.

Changmin sighed, deciding to go into their shared bedroom and just wait for Yunho to finish. He sat on Yunho's bed, he figured Yunho wouldn't mind.

So five minutes later, when Yunho walked into the room with nothing but a towel, Changmin smiled.

Yunho decided to ignore the maknae's behavior, already knowing that Changmin wanted something. The mystery was finding out what it was.

Changmin, trying to be as polite as possible, decided to wait until Yunho was done getting dressed.

Yunho was surprised Changmin even allowed that much dignity.

"What?" Yunho asked coldly as he put his shirt on, thus completing his outfit. He instantly regretted asking. Once he asked what Changmin wanted, there was no going back.

Changmin stood up, putting his hand into his pocket and pulling out a shattered device.

"So..." Yunho trailed off, mentally slapping himself. He was encouraging Changmin's behavior and he felt like the biggest idiot in the world right now.

"Junsu broke it," Changmin said with a whine. "Hyung. I need a new one."

Yunho bit his lip. He wasn't going to buy Changmin a new mp3 player. Those were expensive, and they barely had enough money as it is. Besides, Yunho was saving up to buy his sister's birthday gift. "You're just going to have to borrow Jae's, I guess," he finally said, putting his strong wall up.

Changmin let out a disappointed sigh. "But Hyung, I really need one," he continued. He looked to the leader with sad eyes. "I'm a musician. Does it make sense to not have an mp3 player?"

Yunho sighed, grabbing the bridge of his nose as Changmin continued to look at him with eyes now glowing with hope. His deer eyes seemed to slightly light up as he saw that he was slowly, but surely, breaking Yunho.

"Changmin," Yunho said. "I don't have that kind of money. Why don't you ask manager hyung? Jaejoong? Yoochun? Junsu?" I don't care who you ask just ask someone else that's not me!

"I like when you buy me things, Hyung," Changmin answered simply, as if Yunho had asked the dumbest question he’d ever heard. He stared at Yunho, a small smile appearing on the maknae's face as he waited for Yunho's response.

Yunho sighed. "Can't you wait a little longer?" he asked, not refusing Changmin's request, but not completely giving in either.

"Hyung," Changmin began. "I always have my music with me. Not having my mp3 player feels like I'm missing an article of clothing or something." He sighed, his shoulders slumping a tad as a pout started to form on Changmin's lips.

"I'm sorry, Min," Yunho replied, not really understanding what exactly he was apologizing for. "But I just can't buy it for you. Not now, anyway. I really don't have the money."

A look of clear dejection appeared on Changmin's face as he stood up, looking towards the ground. "I understand," he said, his voice matching his sad facial expression. He smiled once he got closer to Yunho. "Hyung," he said softly, the leader surprised at his sudden change in mood. "I love you."

Two days later, Changmin found a brand new iPod laying on his bed.

Yunho's sister only received a new pair of shoes for her birthday, instead of the new cell phone he was striving to get for her.

She got her new cell phone the following year, and it wasn't until four years later that she found out why.


 

It came to a point where money was no longer the issue. It was simple. As TVXQ became more popular, TVXQ got bigger paychecks.

Yunho started saving responsibly, of course.

But it was hard when you had a maknae that already expected you to buy things for him.

"Hyung. Can we get some beef?"

"Hyung. I need a new cell phone."

"Hyung. I need new shoes."

"Let's get a new TV, Hyung."

"Hyung, how about a dog?"

Yunho was the leader. It didn't make sense that his maknae was the one effortlessly pushing him around.

So he said no to all of Changmin's requests, and couldn't help but feel proud every time he successfully turned down Changmin without faltering in his resolve. He'd usually go to sleep with a proud smile on his face.

It was amazing. Yunho remembered when he was able to reject ten of Changmin’s request in a row. It was a record, one he intended he keep going.

But Changmin has never been known as the one to give up so easily.

One day, Yunho was lounging on the couch, doing some writing. Jaejoong was in the kitchen cooking, Yoochun and Junsu decided to get in some extra dance practice at the studio, so over all, the dorm was a bit quiet.

Changmin came out of the bedroom, a familiar look on his face that would alert that world that something was definitely up. There was a magazine in his hand, open to a specific page.

"Hyung," Changmin said happily as he sat next to Yunho.

Yunho looked up from his notebook, saw the magazine in Changmin's hand, and instantly went back to focusing on the words he had already written. "No," he automatically said.

"I haven't said anything yet," Changmin responded.

"You don't have to," Yunho replied.

Changmin sighed. The two of them sat in silence for a while before Changmin snatched Yunho's notebook.

"Yah! Changmin!" Yunho said angrily. "What do you think you're doing? Give it back!"

Changmin placed his magazine on Yunho's lap instead.

"Changmin-ah!" Yunho yelled as he started trying to reach for his notebook and grab it from Changmin's grasp.

"Not until you see what I'm trying to show you," Changmin replied, pushing Yunho's chest as the leader's arms flailed in an effort to reach his precious book.

"Not a chance!" Yunho said, letting the magazine fall to the ground as he continued to fight for his notebook.

Jaejoong saw it as his cue to come to the rescue. He put down his knife (because there was no way this fight would end cleanly if he brought it with him) and headed to the living room, watching his two dongsaengs now wrestling each other. "Hey!" he finally called out, causing the two of them to freeze.

Yunho was the first to speak. "He won't give me back my notebook."

"He's ignoring me!" Changmin complained.

Jaejoong sighed. "Okay, Changmin," he said. "You know Yunho has been very busy lately. He likes taking this time to relax and clear his mind."

Yunho felt relief wash over him. Finally, there was someone on his side.

Changmin sighed. "There's a new video game out," he said. "I wanted to show it to him."

Yunho scoffed. "Yeah so you could try to convince me to buy it for you," he muttered, folding his arms over his chest. "I'm not buying anything for you anymore."

Changmin pouted. "Appa," he said, causing Yunho to stiffen. He knew calling Yunho that would cause some type of damage. "I really want this." Changmin turned to Jaejoong. "Jae Umma, I want something that would help me relax too."

Yunho turned, glaring at Changmin now.

Is this brat serious?

Jaejoong looked to Yunho.

Yunho could have sworn that he saw a smirk forming on Jaejoong's face. But Yunho didn't have time to process that before Jaejoong started speaking again.

"Yunho, you wouldn't have caused all this trouble if you had just given Changmin a chance to explain himself."

Yunho was taken aback, to say the least. "What?" he asked.

Jaejoong reached over, taking Changmin's magazine. "Changmin, what page is it?"

"Page fourty-one," Changmin immediately answered.

Jaejoong started flipping the pages until he reached the desired one. "Hm," he said, studying the page intently. "Well Yunho, it's not too expensive."

"Then why don't you buy it?" Yunho asked Jaejoong, feeling betrayed.

"Because I wanted to ask you," Changmin answered.

Yunho sighed. "I'm not buying it, Changmin."

"Just buy it, Yunho or I'll never hear the end of it," Jaejoong said. "Besides, Changmin barely asks you for anything."

Yunho just looked at Jaejoong with an expression of shock mixed with disgust. Changmin barely asks for anything? Where have you been for the past four years?

As if adding fuel to the fire, Jaejoong gave Yunho a sad look, followed by Changmin standing next to Jaejoong and giving the same face.

If there was a table close by, Yunho would have flipped it by now.

Instead, he stood up angrily and left the living room.

An hour and a half later, Junsu and Yoochun had returned, seeing a pissed off Yunho, Jaejoong laughing at the leader's misery, and Changmin playing what looked like a new video game.

"What'd we miss?" Yoochun asked casually.

Yunho glared at him, practically shooting daggers from his eyes. "Shut up," he finally said. He really didn't want to talk about it, and Yunho made sure this day was never brought up again.


 

Yunho always found it odd that Changmin would scold the leader for being a grown man who still had a habit to do aegyo, when Changmin himself always did it unknowingly.

But Changmin knew the power his aegyo. Yunho couldn’t resist, even several years after they had first met.

And Changmin loved that secret power he had.

But his aegyo did have one advantage that trumped them all.

The truth is, Changmin really didn't like seeing Yunho upset or miserable, but when he noticed that his rarely used aegyo could convince Yunho to do practically anything, he used it every opportunity he had.

Call Changmin selfish, but whenever he wanted something, he expected Yunho to get it, and he wouldn't take no for an answer.

It was days like today that made Changmin grateful that Yunho was never strong enough to resist his aegyo.

Yunho was always such a happy, energetic person, and even when he was sad, he'd put on a brave face and continue his with his day.

But there were some days where it was hard for him to smile, to face people. Sometimes it was a challenge to even get out of bed.

Yunho had these moods sometimes. They didn't come with a warning. They just appeared. And once this mood came, it was hard for it to go away.

Changmin slowly opened the door to Yunho's room. "Yunho Hyung," Changmin said as he approached Yunho's bedside, watching as the leader laid pitifully in bed. "I made you lunch. You didn't eat breakfast. That's not healthy.” He placed the food on the bedside table.

Yunho sighed. "I'm not hungry, Min," he responded, cuddling his blanket even more.

Changmin sighed and sat down next to Yunho, running his fingers through the leader's hair. "Hyung," he said, a slight whine creeping his voice. "Let's watch a movie together. Your choice."

Yunho stayed silent.

"I'm not leaving until you do something," Changmin said, folding his arms over his chest.

Yunho bit his lip.

Changmin sighed, laying down as well. "Yunho Hyung," he whined again, getting no response. "Hyung...Hyung...Hyyyyyyuuung."

Yunho sighed. "Stop, Min," he asked.

Changmin shook his head. "No," he said.

"I really don't want to fight with you today, Min," Yunho said. "Let's just stop, okay?"

"Who said anything about fighting?" Changmin asked innocently. He pouted. "I want to do something with you today. I hate seeing you like this."

Yunho looked away, not ready for one of Changmin's aegyo tactics.

But Changmin wasn't having that. He wrapped his arms around Yunho, deciding to use his 'maknae voice'. "Hyung," he whined. "I just want to see you smile, okay?" he said. "Smile. Please?"

Yunho could do nothing but return Changmin's hug.

"Yunho," Changmin said, pouting again. "Talk to me, okay?"

"I'm tired, Changmin," Yunho finally said after a while, knowing that Changmin would understand exactly what he was saying.

"Me too, Hyung," Changmin said, slowly releasing Yunho. he started playing with the leader's sleeve. "That's why I like seeing you happy," he continued, his aegyo still being put to use. "Because your happiness gives me hope to keep going."

“Changmin-”

“So what movie are we watching?” Changmin interrupted. There was no way Changmin was going to take “no” for an answer.

“Okay, okay,” Yunho surrendered. He nonchalantly named a movie that came first into his head.

Changmin shook his head.

“No. Not that movie?” Yunho furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. How could Changmin tell him he could choose a movie and then not let him choose a movie?

“I have a movie picked out in the living room already,” Changmin announced as he got out of bed and pulled Yunho’s arm to drag him out.

“Changmin! Stop!”

“I’ll stop when we start watching that movie,” Changmin replied.

Yunho tried yanking his arm from Changmin’s grasp, but he pulled too hard. Changmin’s grip on Yunho slipped, causing the maknae to fall backwards gracelessly on his butt.

The room was silent for several seconds before Changmin muttered an ”ow”.

“Serves you right,” Yunho quipped.

Changmin crossed his arms over his chest. “Don’t be too happy about my pain. I just got hurt trying to get you out of bed. Now you have to watch a movie with me.”

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you desperately wanted to hang out with me.”

Changmin stood up. “I just know you like movies.”

“If I got out of bed do you promise to stop getting yourself injured on my account?”

“I’ll try,” he innocently replied.

“In that case…” Yunho slowly crawled out of bed.

A silly grin crossed Changmin’s face as he grabbed Yunho’s wrist and led him to the living room.

Yunho couldn’t help but laugh. Even after all these years, Yunho couldn’t win against Changmin.

Changmin and his stupid aegyo.

Chapter Text

Opia: the ambiguous intensity of looking someone in the eye, which can feel simultaneously invasive and vulnerable

It was difficult to describe their relationship.

They could say, in the loosest definition possible, they were one.

Despite Yunho’s wild nature and Changmin’s reserved demeanor, the two of them were constantly in sync.

There was no question that they both felt the deepest form of love for each other. It was certainly deeper than any love anyone had ever seen.

Yunho believed their bond had created a psychic link between the two of them. Changmin laughed, called him an idiot and continued drinking his coffee.

Changmin wasn’t sure if “psychic” was the right word, but he couldn’t help but admit that Yunho had the right idea.

The eyes are supposed to be the window to a person’s soul, and neither of them could argue with that clause. Sometimes all it took was brief eye contact for all their secrets to be revealed to each other.

They both loved and hated that, however, because there were somethings they wished they couldn’t share.

They felt each other’s pain.

When Yunho was hurt, he tried everything he could to stay strong in Changmin’s presence. He prefered to suffer in silence because he never wanted Changmin to be worried about him.

But Changmin always knew when something was wrong.

All Changmin had to do was notice Yunho’s eyes failing to reach the brightness of Yunho’s smile, and Changmin’s shoulders suddenly felt heavier. Yunho’s distress had instantly transferred into Changmin. Yunho hated that, because he didn’t want Changmin to suffer with him, and it didn’t matter how much work Yunho had put into hiding his pain, Changmin saw right through it everytime.

Changmin hated feeling vulnerable even more than Yunho did. Changmin had a bad habit of putting up walls; it was a dangerous defense mechanism that he developed when he was very young and never grew out of.

Somehow, Yunho found a way to break Changmin’s wall like the invasive pest that he was.

And when Changmin had his moments where he wanted nothing more than to crawl into a hole and hide from the world, all Yunho had to do was look into his eyes, and Changmin’s walls came crumbling down once again.

They always found safety in each other.

Yunho remembered the day he realized, it’s us against the world now. It was when Yunho realized that he needed Changmin. It was the same time Changmin realized he needed Yunho.

Despite everything, the fear, the danger, the anxiety, there was no greater amount of security that could equal the security that they found in each other.

Yunho, because he desperately needed the reassurance, would look to his side and see that yes, Changmin was still there and he will always be. Changmin, because he was so terrified, would look to his side and see Yunho and sigh in relief because Yunho was loyal and was always there when he needed him.

They would look at each other and all fear dissolved instantly, and that was all they need for their knees to stop shaking, for their hearts to stop beating so dangerously fast, for their stomachs to stop twisting, and for the room to stop spinning.

Their favorite times was the happiness.

Nothing compared to the moments when both of them were so happy.

They’d look each other in the eye and suddenly neither of them could find the sense to stop smiling.

It was when they heard a funny joke, and their first instinct was to laugh and look at each other, before laughing even harder.

It’s when they are backstage and Yunho would tell everyone to do their best. He’d look to Changmin, and the maknae would feel much more motivated than before.

The eyes were more than just windows of the soul. The eyes left a person on constant exhibition; hopelessly exposed. This level of vulnerability came with an immense amount of trust; trust that they had only for each other. The trust that they had been leaning on for several years already, and several more years to come.

Chapter Text

“I suck at this,” Changmin said with a pout as he sat on the floor of the practice room. The seventeen year old sighed as he leaned his head against the wall. His body was aching, and Changmin knew he was overdoing it. But the irrational part of his brain told him he couldn’t quit yet.

“You just need a little more practice,” Yunho replied as he sat next to the maknae. “Don’t be too hard on yourself.”

Yunho handed Changmin a bottle of water. He saw Changmin working himself to the bone, completely drenched in sweat and determined to continue practicing even after Jaejoong, Yoochun, and Junsu had already returned to the dorm.

“You should have gone home with the others,” Changmin said. The last thing Yunho needed was to make his day even longer by helping the hopeless maknae get the dance routine right. Yunho always worked so hard. Any minute of rest Yunho could get was always well deserved.

Yunho shook his head. “I’m going to stay here with you,” he replied. Changmin was being so hard on himself and Yunho didn’t have it in his heart to leave him by himself. “I’ll help you any way I can.”

“I wish I was as good as you,” Changmin said. “You make dancing look so easy.”

Yunho scoffed. “Coming from one of the best singers in SM?”

Changmin laughed shyly as he looked down at his lap. “You’re good at everything you do, though.”

“So are you,” Yunho countered. “And you would realize that if you weren’t beating yourself up at every opportunity.”

“Is this coming from the biggest masochist I know?” Changmin questioned slyly.

Yunho chuckled. “Hey. We’re not talking about me.”

“But I like talking about you.”

“Yeah especially when you’re making fun of me,” Yunho accused.

Changmin sighed as he rested his head on Yunho’s shoulder.

“Tired?” Yunho asked.

Changmin quickly raised his head off Yunho’s shoulder. He wasn’t ready to quit yet. “I just need to go over this dance a few more times.”

“We’ll go over this dance one more time,” Yunho said. “And then we go home. We have plenty of time for you to get this dance down.”

Changmin sighed. “But the four of you-”

“Changmin,” Yunho said, his voice stern. “I need you to listen to me, okay? You should never compare your progress to any of us...or anyone else. You’re learning this dance just fine.”

Changmin almost laughed at Yunho’s statement. Changmin knew for a fact that every time he danced, he looked like a wet noodle.

“When you focus so much on what everyone else around you is accomplishing, you forget all the good you’ve already done,” Yunho continued.

Changmin scoffed. “Like what?”

Yunho scoffed. “Changmin...have you heard the recording for this song?” he asked. “Your voice sounds so amazing. I couldn’t imagine this song being so great without you in it.” Yunho sat up straighter. Changmin got him started, and now there was no stopping point in sight. “And you think you’ve been so terrible with learning the dance for it, but Changmin, you learned the hook and the chorus faster than Yoochun and Jaejoong.”

Changmin’s eyebrows raised in surprise.

“It’s true,” Yunho said with a nod. “You were too busy comparing yourself to me and Junsu.”

Changmin’s gaze shifted to his lap. Maybe Yunho did have a point...

“You still want to practice more?” Yunho asked.

Changmin nodded. Yunho’s little speech was nice, but Changmin still couldn’t stop thinking at everything he needed to fix.

“We’ll practice two more times,” Yunho proposed. “We’ll dance, I’ll tell you what needs to be improved, and then we go over it one more time. Is that okay?”

Changmin knew Yunho was being generous with allowing him to practice twice. Yunho was adamant in getting home so Changmin could rest.

Changmin nodded in surrender, and Yunho jumped to his feet. He pulled Changmin to stand as well, and Changmin released a sigh as he got ready to tackle this dance once more.

“Alright, Changmin. Just relax and go with the flow.”

The music began, and Changmin watched in awe as Yunho effortlessly moved to the rhythm, while he tried his best to follow along as best as he could.

It was so hard, but Changmin let out a sigh of relief once the song ended.

“Changmin, that was amazing!” Yunho complimented. There was a proud smile on her face and Changmin couldn’t help but blush a little.

“You did so well,” Yunho continued. “There’s a move on the second verse we can work on, though.” Yunho slowly demonstrated the dance, and Changmin clumsily copied him the best he could.

“That’s much better,” Yunho commented.

Changmin was starting to think that either Yunho was losing his ability to see, or was just being extremely nice.

They went through the choreography one more time, and Yunho demanded they end it and go home. He pulled out his phone. With their band members and managers asleep, Yunho and Changmin would need to call a cab.

“I thought you liked practicing for hours and hours,” Changmin teased as they gathered their stuff and got ready to leave.

“Only if I think there’s something to improve,” Yunho replied.

“I need to improve,” Changmin insisted.

Yunho shook his head. “You’re looking for perfection; I’m just asking you to do your best. You’ve delivered that countless times already.”

Changmin bit his lip. Everything Yunho was saying was so flattering, and Changmin found himself becoming more embarrassed than he expected.

“Don’t be like me and turn into a masochist too,” Yunho warned.

“So you admit that you’re a masochist?”

“I’m just using the word you always use,” Yunho explained.

“Yeah,” Changmin replied with a nod. “You’re not a masochist, you’re just passionate .”

Yunho laughed at Changmin’s response. “I am!”

“You’re just crazy.”

Yunho pouted. “I’m not crazy.”

“I can think of several people who would disagree,” Changmin pointed out.

The two of them walked outside. The cab that Yunho had called for was already waiting for them.

“I’m enthusiastic about a lot of things,” Yunho defended as they climbed into the vehicle. “I don’t know why I’m like that.” He muttered directions to the taxi driver before turning his attention back to Changmin.

Changmin smiled. “It’s okay,” he said. “You have enough motivation for the five of us.”  Because Yunho’s optimism and persistence was something Changmin absolutely loved about Yunho. That was a part of Yunho Changmin would never want to see disappear.

“But sometimes I overdo it, don’t I?” Yunho questioned.

Changmin shrugged. “You’re strict when it comes to practice, but that’s only because you care a lot.”

Yunho nodded. He couldn’t deny that all. He remembered how hard he was on Changmin when they were trainees. He was surprised Changmin hadn’t broken down and cried right on the spot.

“Yunho,” Changmin muttered sleepily as he leaned his head on the window. “King of passion.”

Yunho turned to Changmin and smiled. “Hey. You think that nickname will catch on?”

Changmin side eyed Yunho. “I really hope not.” He shifted in his seat and closed his eyes. “We can’t have something like that getting to your head.”

Yunho leaned back into his seat. “King of Passion” had a really nice ring to it.

Chapter Text

Finally, after hours and hours, the two of them were encased in what they had been craving all day.

Peace and quiet.

The living room was silent.

Yunho and Changmin had just completed another successful concert in Japan, and couldn’t wait to use the next few days to relax until they had to fly back to Korea.

Yunho had ordered food for the both of them. They were always so thankful to find restaurants that were open so late in the night.

Changmin turned on the television, his head resting on Yunho’s shoulder as the older continued to debate internally if he wanted his food to include shrimp or chicken.

The volume of the TV wasn’t too loud, just on as background noise.

This was there ritual after concerts. There were no after parties, no going out for drinks. After the singing, dancing, wardrobe changes, and fan signing, they just wanted peace and quiet. All they wanted after their concert tours was an escape; an escape from the noise, the chaos, the work.

They wanted time to themselves.

They loved performing and they loved interacting with the fans, but they had to admit how exhausting it was overall.

“Should we get some sushi too?” Yunho quietly asked Changmin.

Changmin nodded. “Do you even have to ask?” he muttered, causing Yunho to snicker.

There was wine in the kitchen; Changmin had been eagerly awaiting to drink it. At this moment, however, Changmin was just so tired that he couldn’t get his legs to move. Yunho’s shoulder felt extremely comfortable, and he felt himself sinking further into the couch.

He was tired, and wouldn’t be surprised if he fell asleep at this very moment.

Yunho finished ordering the food and placed his phone to the side. “I think we did really well today.”

Changmin nodded. Despite being in the business for so long, the two of them still got so nervous performing into a packed arena of screaming fans that they didn’t want to disappoint.

It was always refreshing to come back home and be free from all expectations.

“We didn’t even finish opening our gifts,” Changmin suddenly remembered.

Yunho smiled. “We’ll do that tomorrow,” he replied. “Our fans already know how much we appreciate them.”

Changmin seemed to be content with that reassurance.

The two of them focused on the television now. Yunho started absentmindedly playing with Changmin’s hair, while the maknae was picking at a few strings coming off Yunho’s shirt.

The actions seemed to relax Yunho especially. Having Changmin around always made Yunho feel good, and quiet moments like these seemed to make all the stress of Yunho’s life melt away.

Changmin knew that despite how much energy they expended, Yunho still had boundless more, and would probably love to do anything else besides sitting at home catering to Changmin’s need for solitude.

“We don’t have to go out tomorrow,” Yunho offered, as if he read Changmin’s mind. He smiled as he moved Changmin’s hair from his face.

“Let’s go out tomorrow,” Changmin replied. He just needed a nice amount of sleep in order to take on the day. As long as Yunho didn’t try to wake him up before sunset, Changmin figured he’d be okay. “We can go to that park you like. We haven’t been there in a while.”

Yunho hummed. He was up for anything as long as Changmin was.

“Paparazzi was following us today,” Yunho informed.

“I know,” Changmin said. He had noticed them on the way home. After being followed for so many years, Changmin was able to see through all of the paparazzi’s hiding spots. At this point he wasn’t even annoyed at their presence. The two of them bored paparazzi so much that they eventually give up rather easily.

“You think they’re still out there?” Yunho asked.

Changmin shook his head. “We’re too boring. I mean,” he carelessly waved his hands, “look at us.”

Yunho chuckled. “I guess that’s an advantage of being such grandpas.”

As if to further prove Yunho’s point, Changmin let out a yawn.

“Don’t get too comfortable.” Yunho poked the side of Changmin’s head. “One of us still has to get up to get the food.”

There was a time, after coming home from a concert, the two of them ordered food as usual, but they were so tired that they fell asleep before the food even arrived. It was both embarrassing and funny to think about, but it was definitely something the two of them did not want a repeat of.

Changmin finally brought his head off Yunho’s shoulder. “What? You want me to do it?”

“I ordered the food!” Yunho reminded him. “It’s the least you can do.”

Changmin sighed. “This is our quiet time,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest. “We don’t need to pollute it with your yelling.”

Yunho scoffed. “Did you just call my voice ‘pollution’?”

“What else would you call it?”

“Just...my voice?” Yunho guessed.

“Pollution,” Changmin murmured.

Is this brat really-

Yunho’s thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the door.

Changmin looked to Yunho. “Go answer it.”

If Yunho did have more energy, he would have argued with Changmin, because Yunho was the hyung and Changmin needed to remember that sometimes.

But Yunho, for some reason, found himself standing up and heading to the door. Yunho wanted to slap the grin off Changmin’s face, but the delivery boy on the other side of the door demanded Yunho’s attention a lot more.

“Would you like me to spoon feed you as well?” Yunho asked sarcastically as the two of them went through the containers of food.

Changmin hushed Yunho, handing him some chopsticks instead.

That action seemed to pacify Yunho’s anger, because the leader found himself accepting the chopsticks with a small smile.

Soon, the living room was silent once more, the only sounds being the occasional hum of delight coming from Changmin.

Yunho glanced at Changmin. So he can sing an entire song dedicated to his food but my voice is considered pollution?

As if he had just read Yunho’s mind, Changmin turned to Yunho and smiled. “Our quiet time is only allowed to be interrupted if the food is really good.”

Yunho couldn’t help but laugh at Changmin’s comment.

“Hey, Changmin?” Yunho said, earning a hum from the maknae as he leaned onto Yunho once more. Yunho felt himself sinking into the couch with Changmin as they watched the TV. “I would never consider you voice to be pollution.”

Changmin nodded. “No one does,” He replied confidently.

Chapter Text

Why did Changmin always have to do something like this?

Yunho was on a diet. What part of that could Changmin not understand?

These diets were hard enough; eating less than he was used to, having to turn down invitations to hang out with friends because he was afraid of breaking his diet, having to make sure he stuck to a strict gym routine. It was all so overwhelming, and Yunho was going crazy.

Food was Yunho’s biggest weakness, and Changmin certainly wasn’t helping Yunho’s case by cooking at - he quickly glanced at the clock - 2:00 in the morning.

Yunho sighed, throwing his blanket over his head as he tried to drown out the smell.

Mind over matter, Yunho. Just don’t think about it and go back to sleep.

What evil force even caused Yunho to wake up in the first place?

“Oooh this is gonna be good!” a voice from the kitchen sang.

Yunho sighed once more. That’s what woke him up.

Yunho threw the blanket off and climbed out of bed.

As soon as Yunho stepped into the hallway, the smell of whatever Changmin was cooking hit Yunho like a brick, and Yunho felt his mouth watering.

Yunho sighed, making his way down the hallway and into the kitchen.

The maknae was so focused on his food that he barely realized Yunho had entered.

“Changmin,” Yunho whined. “ What are you doing?”

“I woke up and got hungry,” Changmin explained with an innocent smile.

“Did you have to be so loud?” Yunho asked.

Changmin didn’t respond. He simply turned his attention back to the food in the stove.

Yunho sighed as he got closer to Changmin.

“It smells good, doesn’t it?” Changmin proudly asked.

Yunho nodded. It smelled great. How could he possibly resist this? He felt his mouth watering already and he cursed his weak resolve.

“You want some?” Changmin asked.

Of course I do, Yunho’s mind supplied. His stomach growled at that moment, answering for him before he could deny anything.

Changmin chuckled. “I already made enough for the both of us.”

“I’m on a-”

“Not tonight,” Changmin interrupted. “You’re obviously hungry, and need a snack.”

Yunho scoffed. The concoction on the stove was definitely not just “a snack”. What was on the stove looked like three servings of ramen and-

“Is that...pork?” Yunho asked as he looked closer into the pot.

Changmin smiled proudly. “Of course it is.”

Yunho bit his lip. How could he deny pork and ramen?

Changmin picked a piece of meat from the pot and held it in front of Yunho’s mouth. “Try some.”

“I’m on a diet,” Yunho reminded him. His stomach growled once more.

“It’s just a piece of meat,” Changmin enticed. “Besides, you don’t need to lose any weight. Your body looks fine already.”

Just like that, Yunho’s weakness for food got the best of him. He accepted the meat, chewing it slowly. Changmin’s smile seemed to have gotten bigger as he watched Yunho eat, and Yunho couldn’t be too mad at himself anymore.

Changmin left his place at the stove to grab two bowls from the cabinet. “You want to eat with me?”

“Changmin. We have a comeback to get ready for,” Yunho reminded the maknae. “I can’t afford to gain any weight with-”

“You won’t gain weight,” Changmin insisted. He started putting the ramen into the two bowls, completely ignoring Yunho’s weak sounds of protest. “It’s just one bowl of ramen and it tastes great. I want you to have some.”

Yunho sighed. Changmin was so stubborn and really had a hard time taking “no” for an answer. A few seconds later and Yunho found himself holding a bowl of pork ramen and a pair of chopsticks.

The two of them sat at the dining table, Changmin wiggling his shoulders in excitement and Yunho watching Changmin with amusement.

Changmin put some ramen into his mouth and hummed in delight. “Yup. This tastes great.”

Yunho just laughed, taking a bite from his own bowl. “You make the best ramen, ever.”

Changmin smiled proudly. The two of them were both aware that Changmin didn’t make this meal from scratch; he simply threw bags of ramen from the grocery into the pot, followed by some leftover pork he had found in the freezer. But it still made Changmin happy to hear such a compliment from Yunho.

“You never let me diet in peace,” Yunho muttered. A pout formed on his lips as he watched Changmin continue to eat, completely unbothered by Yunho’s mood.

Yunho continued eating his ramen as well, happy that he had given in. He liked his little snack times with Changmin because Yunho swore these were some of the times that Changmin looked the happiest.

“Thanks for the ramen, Changdola.”

“You don’t need to diet, Yunho,” Changmin pointed out. “Your body’s just fine.”

“No Changmin,” Yunho replied, shaking his head. “ Your body’s fine. Mine needs work.”

“The only thing that needs work is your view of yourself,” Changmin pointed out. “Quit making yourself suffer over such trivial things.”

Yunho stared at Changmin as the younger one continued eating.

“Eat up, Yunho.” Changmin paused his eating to speak once more. “You can’t be a leader if you don’t have the strength for it, can you?”

Yunho smiled. “I guess this means you’ll have to make sure you cook for me every night,” he shrugged, “you know...for my strength.”

Changmin briefly glared at the older one. He stood up, grabbing his empty bowl and placing in the sink. “I’m going back to bed.”

“Good night, Changmin,” Yunho called out as Changmin left the kitchen. Yunho scoffed. “At least let me tell you how much I appreciate you,” he muttered as he finished his ramen.

Chapter Text

When Yunho was five, he remembered his mother bringing home a small container of strawberries for Yunho. It was after his kindergarten teacher had called the Jung family to inform them that their son was always so bright, and was always a joy to have in class.

Yunho’s parents were so proud of their son, part of their reward for receiving such good news were his strawberries.

His mother smiled brightly as she watched her son devour the red fruit. By the time the boy was done, his lips, cheeks and fingers were red and sticky, but the boy was grinning ear to ear, and his mother decided that was one of the cutest moments from Yunho.

From then on, whenever Mrs. Jung would bring her son and daughter to the grocery store, Yunho would gasp excitedly upon seeing strawberries and beg his mom to buy a case.

“What did you do to earn it?” his mom would tease.

Yunho would squint his eyes in concentration before blurting out an answer.

“I cleaned my room!”

“I shared my toys in class!”

“I hugged my friend when he started crying at recess!”

“I protected Jihye from the monster under her bed!”

Any answer he gave, his mother found suffice, and would place the container of strawberries into the shopping basket.


 

But then, the economic depression hit, and the Jung family struggled, just like everyone else.

They soon found themselves cutting back on their purchases, and Yunho found himself doing various odd jobs to help his family as much as he could. After a day's work, Yunho would hand his father whatever money he was lucky enough to make that day, before collapsing into his bed and falling asleep.

They didn't buy strawberries anymore, and while Yunho hated that, he understood. Strawberries were not the key to his survival, not when other important matters needed to be handled, like their living expenses, their schooling, and their basic needs.

One day, when Yunho crawled into bed after earning a little money by cleaning the local church, his father walked into his room.

Yunho noticed how tired the older man was, and wondered what could be possibly weighing on his mind now.

“Dad?” Yunho hesitated as his father sat on the edge of the bed. Yunho noticed that he was holding something behind his back.

“Dad?” he asked again.

Mr. Jung smiled fondly, and the worry that Yunho felt quickly dissolved.

“Yunho,” his father began, placing his free hand on Yunho's cheek. “Your mother and I are so proud of you. You've worked so hard to help us both. You're so young, and shouldn't be bothered by these things but you stepped up without even being asked.”

Yunho smiled. “I'll always help out where I can,” he replied.

From behind his back, Mr Jung pulled out a container of strawberries, causing Yunho to gasp. “I know it's not much,” he said apologetically. “But it's the only thing we can afford right now. Your mom and I just want you to know how much we appreciate you.”

Yunho shook his head. “You didn't-”

“We'll make it up to you better when we're able to,” his father continued. “But for now this is how we're able to thank you.”

Yunho quickly wrapped his arms around his father in a tight hug.

“You might think that the money you bring home is too small,” his father pointed out. “But you've helped pay the remainder of your sister's school fees.”

Yunho separated from his father, staring at the older man in confusion.

Mr. Jung nodded. “It's true,” he said. “Jihye can continue school because of you and that means so much to all of us.”

Yunho felt breathless.

“Don't ever forget the good that you do for us, Yunho,” Mr Jung pleaded. “Because I promise you that none of us will.”

With watery eyes, Yunho slowly opened the plastic container and picked out a strawberry. He had offered one to his father, but the older man refused, smiling as he watched Yunho eat his favorite fruit.

“I love you, Yunho.”

Yunho smiled. “I love you too, Dad.”


 

Once the Jung family had recovered from the economic depression, Yunho was back to getting a container of strawberries every week. It was probably his imagination, or maybe just the fact that he missed eating strawberries so much, but he couldn't help but notice that strawberries tasted impossibly better than before.

Yunho was back to struggling financially after he left home to become a trainee with SM. Once again, he found himself going months without a single strawberry because he couldn't afford to indulge himself, even a little. He was back to performing odd jobs just to be able to afford to feed himself.

He knew this wasn't the life his parents wanted for him. His father specifically said that if it got too hard, he were to return home immediately.

God, Yunho was so tempted.

He missed his regular meals, he missed his warm bed.

He missed his family.

But returning home meant giving up his dream as an idol, and Yunho worked way too hard to just give up now. He couldn't risk throwing everything away just yet.

It was one night, after training and helping the newer trainees with choreography, that Yunho dragged his wobbly legs to a chair and sighed as he fell into it. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply.

What did he need more right now? Food or sleep? He wasn't too sure right now, but he would love to have both.

It was then that Yunho realized that maybe someone up there really was looking after him.

“Y-Yunho?” a small voice said, causing Yunho's eyes to snap open.

He was met by a pair of big brown eyes.

“Changmin,” Yunho muttered. “Hey.”

Changmin looked away, playing with his fingers as he did so.

Is this kid really that scared of me?

“What's up, Changmin?” Yunho tried again, this time trying to sound as friendly as possible. What did he do to make this kid hate him so much?

“Do you….do you want to come over for dinner?” Changmin finally asked.

Yunho's eyebrows raised in surprise. “What?”

“I mean, only if you want to,” Changmin said nervously. “You don't have to come you probably have plans already because you have so many friends my parents just wanted to meet you and-”

“Changmin,” Yunho interrupted. He had no idea Changmin was capable of saying more than four words at a time. “I'd love to come.”

Changmin sighed, and Yunho couldn't tell if it was out of relief or disappointment.

“My mom is on her way,” Changmin continued. “Um...she said if dinner runs late we can sleep at my house or…” Changmin trailed off. He couldn't read Yunho's facial expression, and it was making him nervous. “I...I don't know…” he trailed off.

Why is this kid so adorable?

“It's fine, Changmin,” Yunho reassured. “I'm really grateful that your mom invited me.” He smiled, trying so hard to make sure that Changmin didn't see him as this angry monster. “Let me freshen up, okay?”

By the time Yunho had cleaned himself up and changed into decent clothes, Changmin's family had arrived.

Changmin had, surprisingly, talked the whole way home. It was mostly to his mother, but Yunho was happy to see Changmin in his comfort zone.

“You have a weird accent,” Jiyeon said to Yunho over dinner.

“Jiyeon,” Mr Shim reprimanded. “That's not a nice thing to say.”

“But he does,” Jiyeon insisted. “He talks funny.”

Yunho chuckled. “I'm not from Seoul. I'm from Gwangju.”

“So you're a country boy,” Sooyeon concluded.

“So you lived on a farm?” Jiyeon asked.

“Okay girls that's enough,” Mrs Shim said.

Yunho looked over to Changmin, who looked so embarrassed and Yunho had to hold his laughter in. Changmin's face and ears had turned a bright shade of red, and he just looked like he wanted to be anywhere except here.

“Gwangju is actually very nice,” Mr Shim said. I've traveled there a few times and I enjoyed it.”

“You must miss your family,” Mrs Shim said sympathetically. “Seoul is so far away from Gwangju.”

Yunho nodded. He missed his family so much and he hated the fact that the Shims felt the need to bring it up. The last thing he wanted was to start crying in front of them when they had only met him an hour ago.

“If you ever need help with arrangements to go visit them,” Mr Shim said. “Please let us know. We’ll be happy to help. It’s not good for a kid your age to be away from your parents so much.”

Yunho was sure that his face was the one that had turned red now. “Thank you,” he said breathlessly.

“Anything for the one who’s been helping our son with everything,” Mrs Shim replied. “He talks so much about you. We’re very grateful for everything you’ve done for him.”

That was definitely one of the most shocking things Yunho had heard in a while. Changmin said all that about him? The same Changmin that ran away anytime he saw Yunho coming? The same Changmin that froze every time he heard Yunho speak?

That Changmin?

“Mom,” Changmin whined, surprised that she brought it up.

“He should know,” Mrs Shim insisted. She turned back to Yunho. “Changmin’s very very shy.”

Yunho turned to Changmin again, noticing the younger boy looking even more embarrassed than before.

But everything made so much sense to Yunho now.

“He may have a hard time expressing it,” Mrs Shim continued. “But he admires you a lot.”

Yunho smiled, slinging his arm around Changmin. “Changmin works very hard,” he said. “You should be very proud of him. I’m really impressed with the progress he’s made.”

Mrs Shim beamed at Yunho’s comment.

“Changmin can’t dance,” Jiyeon pointed out.”

“He knows that already, Jiyeon,” Changmin muttered, glaring at his sister as he said it.

Yunho turned to Jiyeon. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I’m going to make sure he gets better.”

Mrs Shim gasped. “I almost forgot,” she said, getting up from the table and rushing to the fridge.

Yunho furrowed his eyebrows in confusion as he noticed Mrs. Shim returning with a familiar object in her hand.

“Changmin said he overheard a conversation you were having with another trainee,” Mr Shim explained upon noticing Yunho’s expression. “Donghae, was it?”

Yunho and Changmin nodded.

Yunho swore that when he was having that conversation with Donghae, the two of them were speaking in private. Yunho had no idea how Changmin was able to sneak into their conversation without them realizing it.

Yunho swallowed. What else from that conversation had Changmin heard that night?

“I...I didn’t mean to eavesdrop,” Changmin pointed out, as if he were reading Yunho’s thoughts.

“Changmin heard you say how much you missed eating strawberries because you couldn’t afford them,” Mr Shim continued.

Mrs Shim handed Yunho a container of strawberries. “Being away from home must be so hard for you, and we want to make it as easy for you as possible,” she said.

Yunho laughed as he felt his eyes watering. “Thank you,” he said, clutching the plastic container.

He hadn’t done anything special to deserve everything the Shim family was doing for him, so he couldn’t help but think that tonight was so overwhelming.

“When Changmin debuts,” Mr. Shim said proudly. “We’ll have you to thank. So consider these as a thank you in advance.”


 

Changmin was well aware he had messed up.

He was the one that started the fight, and he made sure to be the one who ended it.

Despite Yunho and his obviously hurt feelings, the leader carried on, claiming the fight was “no big deal”.

But Changmin noticed everything; Yunho being uncharacteristically quiet, Yunho subtly distancing himself from Changmin.

It was driving Changmin insane.

But Changmin, and his ego that he hated so much, couldn’t even formulate the words “I’m sorry”.

Which is why Changmin found himself returning home from the grocery store that night, a plastic bag held tightly in his hand as he entered.

He was surprised to see Yunho in the living room, watching TV.

“Hey,” the leader greeted casually.

“Hey,” Changmin replied as he approached Yunho and sat next to him on the couch.

The only sound in the living room after that was coming from the TV; Yunho was watching one of his weird bargain shopping channels.

Yunho scoffed as a the price of a kitchen set was displayed. “What a ripoff. There’s another store selling this exact set for ten thousand won less.”

There was a smirk forming on Changmin’s lips. He always thought it was so amusing when Yunho would get frustrated at overpriced goods on TV, as if he were watching some high stakes sports event.

Changmin dropped the bag of strawberries onto Yunho’s lap, causing the older one to slightly jump.

“Changmin-”

“I’m sorry.”

The words just fumbled out of Changmin’s mouth this time.

“I’m really sorry.”

Yunho smiled, opening the bag on his lap to reveal three containers of strawberries.

“I wasn’t mad at you, Changmin,” Yunho pointed out.

“But you were still upset,” Changmin replied. “And I caused it.”

Yunho glanced down at the bag once more.

“I know how happy strawberries make you feel,” Changmin explained. “Even at your age.”

Yunho glanced at Changmin, hoping for some sort of explanation for that last comment.

“You didn’t deserve to be hurt like that,” Changmin continued. “And I know I can’t take back anything I said, but I do hope that you don’t take any of what I said to heart.”

Yunho bit his lip. He grabbed a container from the bag, opening the plastic and grabbing a strawberry from it. “Want some?” he offered.

Changmin scoffed, accepting the offered fruit and taking a bite.

“Hey, Changmin?” Yunho began, earning a hum from the maknae. “I love you almost as much as I love strawberries. Always remember that.”

Changmin smiled, grabbing another strawberry while praying that his cheeks hadn’t turned as bright as the strawberry he was holding.

Chapter Text

Changmin wasn’t there to greet Yunho at the airport. Of course he wouldn’t be; Yunho told him not to worry about it and that they would always catch up later. So when Yunho got home, all he was expecting was a hot shower and a nap, because frankly, those were the two things he needed most right now.

What Yunho wasn’t expecting, however, was to enter his living room after his much needed shower to see Changmin lounging on his couch in the living room.

Changmin looked up from his phone upon noticing Yunho’s presence. “Hey, Yunho,” he greeted, a smile plastered on his face.

Yunho couldn’t help but smile back as he approached Changmin and sat next to him. He pulled the maknae into a hug and held him tightly. “Changmin,” he muttered. “I missed you.”

He probably sounded ridiculous; the two of them had kept in contact by video chatting at every opportunity. But it wasn’t the same, and having Changmin sitting right next to him further proved his point.

“I’m glad you’re back,” Changmin said as the two of them separated from their hug.

“Me too,” Yunho said with a nod. “Ghana was nice, but it wasn’t home.” He sighed, sinking into the couch.

“You were having a lot of fun over there. I honestly didn’t know if you would come back.”

Yunho smiled. “It doesn’t snow over there.”

“Well you can buy a house in Ghana and stay there for a few months every year,” Changmin suggested. Yunho perked up at the suggestion and Changmin had to add “I was kidding!” before Yunho returned to his slumped position on the couch.

“Well when I came in here I checked to make sure you didn’t bring any kids back,” Changmin teased. “I’m glad you still had enough self control for that.”

Throughout Yunho’s trip to Ghana, Yunho’s calls to Changmin would consist of Yunho constantly whining and crying about the fact that he wanted to bring so many of the kids back with him. The children had stolen Yunho’s heart so easily; within being in Ghana for a day, Yunho was already trying to figure out how the adoption process worked in that country.

Changmin’s job was to remind Yunho that now would be the worst time to become a father; not when they still had albums to release and promote, and not when Yunho hasn’t even begun to think of enlisting yet.

Of course, Changmin had to restrain himself from begging Yunho to adopt a child for him as well, because Changmin couldn’t deny how cute they were.

“I miss them so much,” Yunho sighed.

He had only been there for a week, but Yunho felt his heart strings pull when he walked into the airport in Accra. He wasn’t ready to leave those kids yet. He felt his eyes watering as he entered the plane. He felt silly because of it, but this trip touched his heart more than he expected it to.

“Maybe you can try and see them again?” Changmin suggested

“You think they miss me as much as I miss them?” Yunho asked.

Changmin smiled. “Of course they do,” he assured. “You have the ability to leave a lasting impression on everyone you meet. Those kids won’t be any different.”

“I saw the world from a different perspective, you know?” Yunho pointed out. “Those kids...they went through so much but they still stay so optimistic. They deserve all the good in the world.”

“And you gave them some,” Changmin pointed out. “And they’ll get so much more.”

Yunho perked up. “You think so?”

Changmin nodded. “You said you wanted to bring awareness,” he reminded him. “And don’t you know that anything Yunho touches gets attention? Our fans are probably planning some huge charity project as we speak.”

“Oh.” Yunho sat up straighter. “I would love that so much.”

Changmin smiled. He could tell how bittersweet this moment was for Yunho; the older one was glad to be back home, but he also knew Yunho was going to be thinking about the kids in Ghana for a long time. A week just wasn’t enough time for Yunho to provide all the help he wanted, and Changmin knew Yunho would probably spend several nights thinking about what he could have done differently to provide more help.

“Is Africa really like what they show us on TV?” Changmin asked. He felt almost embarrassed to ask, but he was very curious.

Yunho shook his head. “Where those kids lived,” he began. “It was the poorer side. Mostly farm workers, you know? But I saw other parts of Ghana too, and it was really nice. They even had a few McDonald’s...and I think I saw a Panda Express?”

“Really?” Changmin asked, his eyebrows raising in surprise.

“Really,” Yunho answered with a nod. “On TV they only show the starving kids. But really, there were tons of people living normal lives.”

Changmin bit his lip.

“But uh…” Yunho scratched his thigh, “There were times when the power would go out...it always went out at the worst times. When I asked the kids why that happened, they just told me ‘corruption’, and then carried on like it was nothing.”

“Is that why you were video chatting with me in the dark and holding a flashlight?”

Yunho nodded. “You called right when the lights went out,” Yunho explained. “My phone died a few hours later and I couldn’t charge it until the next day.”

The doorbell rang, and Yunho furrowed his eyebrows in confusion.

“I checked your fridge while you were in the shower,” Changmin explained as he stood up. “I was going to cook for you but there was literally nothing to work with. So I ordered food for you instead.”

Yunho smiled as Changmin made his way to the door, opening it to reveal a delivery boy.

“I didn’t want my food to spoil while I was gone,” Yunho said after Changmin tipped the delivery boy and closed the door. “So I finished everything before I left-you actually came to my house to cook for me?”

Changmin shrugged as he sat down on the couch again, this time accompanied by bags of food. “10 hours is a long time to be on a plane. I thought you’d be hungry.”

Changmin definitely wasn’t wrong about that, and to prove it, Yunho’s stomach took that moment to growl.

“Eat up and get some rest, Yunho,” Changmin said softly.

Yunho accepted the takeout container right away. He glanced at Changmin, about to ask if the maknae was planning on eating with him, before noticing the second container in Changmin’s hand.

Yunho started swirling his chopsticks around in his food. “Changmin.”

“Hm?”

“Are you sure I can’t at least adopt one?”

“Finish your food.”

Chapter Text

Yunho: Please come by and see Eunchae. She’s so cute ^^ I took her from Jihye so that she and her husband can get some rest today. She doesn’t cry a lot but she’s really clingy.

Changmin smiled at the text. He hadn’t seen Yunho’s niece since she had been born.

Yunho sent him constant pictures of Eunchae whenever he was with her, all of which Changmin was grateful for.

Yunho was right about one thing; that baby was adorable, and Changmin always felt bad that he hadn’t had time to see her yet.

Changmin wanted to. He was excited for Eunchae’s arrival from the minute Yunho happily announced that his sister was pregnant and that he was going to be an uncle.

But Changmin didn’t want to impose on their family time. So he patiently waited for an invitation to see her.

Which is why Changmin was ecstatic upon receiving Yunho’s text this morning.

Changmin quickly got ready; making sure his clothes were nice and his hair was presentable. He wasn’t sure why that mattered so much to him, Eunchae wouldn’t remember today anyway.

He went for his closet once more, where a yellow gift bag had been sitting for several weeks, and Changmin was out of his apartment a few minutes later.

Yunho had told Changmin to let himself in when he got there, so once he arrived, Changmin fished his key out of his pocket and opened the door.

He wasn’t surprised to see Yunho in the living room, he and Eunchae on the floor as Yunho was doing his best to keep his niece entertained. Eunchae was laying on the floor on top of a pink blanket, while Yunho hovered over her making silly faces.

“Changmin!” Yunho said happily as he noticed Changmin’s presence.

Changmin smiled in response and sat on the floor next to Yunho.

Yunho picked up Eunchae. “Eunchae, this is Uncle Changmin. Changmin, this is Eunchae.”

“Hi, Eunchae,” Changmin replied in a sing-song voice. His eyebrows perked up as he remembered something.

“I have something for you, Eunchae,” he said as he proudly displayed the gift bag, pulling out a large, stuffed rabbit.

Eunchae smiled at the sight of the toy, holding the stuffed animal with tight fists.

“I think she likes them,” Yunho guessed with a smile.

Changmin glanced at Yunho before turning his attention back to Eunchae.

“Do you want to hold her?” Yunho asked.

Changmin quickly nodded, holding out his hands.

“Whenever your mom isn’t around to cook,” Yunho said softly to Eunchae as he passed her to Changmin. “You can just call Changmin and he’ll cook whatever you want.”

Changmin giggled, feeling his heart flutter as the baby in his arms smiled back at him.

“She’s so cute,” Changmin whispered.

Yunho smiled proudly. “Does she look like anyone you know?” he asked, cupping his hands around his face like a flower.

“Yeah,” Changmin said with a nod. “Jihye.”

He laughed when Yunho’s proud expression turned into a pout.

“But doesn’t she look like someone else?” Yunho further attempted.

Changmin hummed, pretending to be deep in thought. “Can’t think of anyone else, really.”

“Who does everyone say Jihye looks like?” Yunho muttered under his breath as he crossed his arms over his chest. “If I had a daughter people would probably think she and Eunchae are twins.”

Changmin rolled his eyes at Yunho. “For your daughter’s sake, I hope she looks like her mother.”

“Yah! Shim Changmin!”

Changmin laughed; both at Yunho’s despair, and upon seeing the stuffed rabbit had fallen from Eunchae’s grasp. He grabbed the stuffed bunny and placed it into Eunchae’s arms once again, watching as she squeezed it tightly.

“You’ll have kids of your own someday, too, you know,” Yunho said suddenly, surprising Changmin. His eyes were soft, as if he hadn’t just endured a teasing session from Changmin.

“So will you,” Changmin pointed out.

“I’m serious,” Yunho insisted. “You’d make a great father, Changmin. Don’t ever doubt that.”

Changmin bit his lip. He had always wanted a family. But then life got in the way. Being an idol was harder work than Changmin could have ever imagined, and it was easy for his entire life to be consumed by his career.

After a while, Changmin had given up on the idea. How could he possibly have a wife and children when he couldn’t even keep a lasting relationship for more than a couple of months?

“Until I become a father,” Yunho began, gently tickling Eunchae’s stomach. “I’ll happily spoil this pretty girl like she’s my own.” Yunho glared at Changmin. “And she looks exactly like me.”

“She looks like Jihye,” Changmin corrected. “Because she’s her mother.

“Jihye could pass as my twin.”

Changmin smiled. “If that makes you feel happy.”

“If I were to walk outside now with her people would think she’s my own daughter.”

Changmin glared at Yunho. “Yeah, because people aren’t going to recognize U-Know Yunho walking around with a baby people have already seen on TV.”

“Not everyone watched that episode,” Yunho muttered as he crossed his arms over his chest.

Changmin looked at Eunchae once again. He wondered, if he were to have a child of his own, would he let his child into the spotlight? Or would he keep the life of his child completely private?

It didn’t matter anyway, kids weren’t coming any time soon.

“Seriously, Changmin,” Yunho said. “Our time for fatherhood will come and I’m eagerly awaiting that day.”

Changmin sometimes hated how easily Yunho could read him.

“Me too,” Changmin replied. He looked to Eunchae once more. Come to think of it, ‘Uncle Changmin’ had a nice ring to it.

“Can I ask a favor?” Changmin asked Yunho.

“Of course, Changmin. What is it?”

“Until Sooyeon and Jiyeon have kids of their own,” he began. “Can I spoil Eunchae with you?”

Yunho face only seemed to grow brighter at Changmin’s request. “Of course, Changmin,” he answered.

It was only fair, since Yunho already had so many plans to spoil Sooyeon and Jiyeon’s kids if they had any.

Changmin smiled as he looked at Eunchae once more. “How does it feel having so many people fighting for your attention?” he asked, earning another smile from Eunchae.

“Wow!” Yunho exclaimed. “She really likes you.”

“I would hope so,” Changmin replied, his gaze still on Eunchae. “Because that would make this whole spoiling thing really awkward.”

Yunho pulled out his phone, opening up the camera and sneakily taking a few pictures of Changmin and Eunchae together. He’d send those pictures to Jihye later...and maybe half of the people in his contacts.

“If Eunchae ends up being anything like her mother, then I should probably warn you that she will be very hard to please.”

“Runs in the family, I see,” Changmin muttered, earning a glare from Yunho.

“I’m ignoring that comment,” Yunho muttered. Changmin could spoil his niece all he wanted as long as she didn’t pick up his snarky attitude.

“We should take her out,” Changmin suddenly suggested. He finally looked up at Yunho. “Would Jihye be okay with her being outside for a little while? Maybe we can walk her to the park or something?”

Yunho smiled. “She has a stroller,” he answered, standing up. “I’m sure she’d like to see more than our boring faces anyway.”

Yunho left to go get the stroller, leaving Changmin and Eunchae alone in the living room.

“Yunho’s a lucky uncle,” Changmin whispered to Eunchae. “You’ll love him a lot, I know you will.” He planted a kiss on her forehead and smiled. “I’m a little late, but welcome to the family, Eunchae. We all love you very much.”

Chapter Text

It had happened several times before, but each time made Yunho's heart feel like it was beating out of his chest.

This time it happened backstage, Yunho and Changmin had just finished a set, before running backstage to change outfits. Yunho doesn’t remember how Changmin lagged behind and got separated from him as they were walking to the dressing room. But Yunho turned to look for the maknae and he saw it happen.

“Changmin!” Yunho yelled in surprise as he watched the younger one fall to his knees before completely collapsing.

Yunho wasn't fast enough this time, and he found himself running towards Changmin’s prone form.

He should have seen this coming; he had barely noticed Changmin's sluggishness, Changmin's tired smile, Changmin swaying whenever he walked.

Maybe if Yunho had paid more attention, this wouldn't have happened.

Yunho felt his mouth go dry as he noticed that Changmin was making no effort to get up.

“Changmin,” Yunho said breathlessly as he kneeled down. He slowly flipped Changmin onto his back, glad there was no sign of injury from his fall.

He sighed in relief as he noticed Changmin's furrowed brows. He squinted his eyes open, looking for the source of the panicked voice calling his name. “Dizzy,” was the only thing Changmin managed to say.

“I know.”

Yunho noticed Changmin staring back at him with unfocused eyes. Changmin must have been worse than Yunho realized.

“Yunho,” Changmin muttered, although he wasn't sure why. It felt as if the leader was so far away. Changmin felt so cold and lost; he couldn't understand how he had gotten so bad. One second he was on stage and the next second he was on the floor backstage, and it was all so confusing.

As if he knew exactly what Changmin was thinking, Yunho gently helped Changmin sit up, the maknae leaning heavily against his chest. He mindlessly started playing with Changmin's hair, noticing how tense Changmin's body was. He began muttering words of comfort, and Changmin couldn’t help but notice how shaky Yunho’s voice had become.

Changmin moaned as he squeezed his eyes shut once more. The room was spinning so fast and the last thing Changmin wanted to do was throw up all over Yunho.

Yunho sighed as he heard Changmin taking slow, deep breaths; his way of calming the sudden case of vertigo that always seemed to hit him at the most inopportune times.

“You okay?” Yunho asked after a few minutes.

He felt Changmin nod against his chest.

“Sorry,” Changmin apologized. “I-”

“You don't owe anyone an apology,” Yunho quickly corrected. “We're just glad you're okay.”

Yunho's words reminded Changmin that the two of them weren't alone. Several pairs of eyes were watching Changmin in concern, and he found himself curling up even more in Yunho's hold, hoping to become small enough to just disappear.

“The show,” Changmin muttered. They had a show to do and they were waiting for him to get up and they needed him right now he couldn't let anyone down he had to-

“Rest for a little bit, okay?” Yunho pleaded. “Can you stand?”

Changmin nodded. His head was a little clearer now, and his vision wasn't as blurry anymore. His body still felt like a block of lead, but that has never stopped him before.

He felt Yunho slowly pull him up to stand, and Yunho guided him to the couch. Yunho was moving slowly, and Changmin was grateful for that, because his feet felt so heavy.

“Just lay down and rest for a bit,” Yunho said as he gently forced Changmin to lay on the couch.

“The show,” Changmin repeated, as if his recent fainting spell had robbed him of his vocabulary.

Yunho kneeled next to him. “Don't worry about that for right now,” he demanded.

Changmin's eyes widened. “Yunho...we can't just-”

“We'll handle it,” Yunho interrupted. “But for now I don't feel good letting you on stage just yet.” Yunho didn't like Changmin feeling forced to do anything, but he really wanted the younger one to see reason and take care of himself, even for a little bit.

“I'm fine,” Changmin insisted, attempting to sit up, but Yunho kept forcing him back down and Changmin was losing his energy to fight.

“We can change the line up,” a crew member suggested, becoming the hero of the day. “Yunho can do his solo now and you can come back afterwards. How does that sound, Changmin?”

Changmin nodded. That deal sounded much better than making their fans wait any longer until Changmin got himself back together.

“Is there anything I can do for you?” Yunho asked desperately.

Changmin shook his head. “I'll be fine, Yunho,” he promised. “Just get on stage and worry about your pants not ripping.”

“Okay,” Yunho sighed, although was relieved that Changmin was in good enough shape to tease him. “Take it easy for a bit.”

Changmin nodded in obedience before a stylist came and started dragging Yunho away.

Yunho could only watch helplessly as various crew members started fussing over Changmin, but Yunho could also breathe easier knowing that Changmin was in capable hands.

Once Yunho's outfit, hair, and makeup were done, he went over to Changmin once more. Changmin was now propped up by a pillow, after drinking a protein shake someone found in the mini fridge; the empty bottle carelessly thrown to the floor.

“Hey.” Yunho smiled as he kneeled down once more. “Feeling better?”

Changmin nodded. “As soon as you’re done I'm getting ready for our next stage,” he said, determination laced in his voice.

“I know,” Yunho replied. He ruffled Changmin's hair. “I'm glad you're okay. But feel free to stop giving me a heart attack every once in a while.”

Changmin smiled. “I thought this was exciting?”

“Then I guess excitement was never for me,” Yunho concluded. He knew it was time for him to perform, but he just couldn’t get his body to move, not when Changmin was lying here.

“I’ll be fine, Hyung,” Changmin promised, as if he could hear Yunho’s internal struggle. “You worry too much.”

Yunho only worried too much because he cared too much.

Yunho knew; Changmin wasn’t someone he would ever stop worrying about.

Chapter Text

Changmin was in the bathroom. His manager had texted saying he would be a little late, so Changmin decided to spend the extra time to freshen up.

Another school day was over and Changmin couldn't be more relieved.

Of course, the end of the school day meant nothing; just transitioning from one work load to another. But at least he was with his band members, and that was enough for him.

Changmin just needed to finish up here and then wait for his manager at the park down the block. That was a good enough distance away from-

“Oh. Look who's here.”

Changmin felt his heart stop at the sound of that voice. Why did he have to come and find him? Why so close to Changmin leaving school?

Changmin turned to face three of his classmates; Jun, Seungho, and Moonhee.

Changmin hated school. He always felt like the odd one out because he was so shy and had difficulty making friends.

That didn't change even after he became an idol. People wanted to talk to him, but simply because he was in a band. They all wanted dirt on them, and several girls desperately wanted Jaejoong's and Yunho's phone numbers.

Changmin felt his mouth going dry as he slowly stepped back. He wasn’t sure what the three boys in front of him were planning to do. What Changmin did know was that every time he was around these guys, nothing good ever happened to him.

“He’s already getting scared,” Jun taunted. “Just give him a few minutes, he’ll pee his pants any second.”

Changmin watched helplessly as Moonhee closed the door to the bathroom.

Changmin looked to the door once more, hoping someone, anyone, would walk in and interrupt whatever was about to happen.

“If he does,” Seungho began. “I have my camera ready. Just wait until all of Korea hears that Changmin peed his pants just because he got scared.”

“DBSK will have to kick him out,” Moonhee said. “Can’t have someone like him ruining the band’s reputation.”

“I...I please not now,” Changmin said, miraculously finding his voice

“I think he’s about to cry,” Jun said.

Changmin’s phone pinged at that second. Maybe his manager was here?

Which meant that maybe, once the older man realized there was no trace of Changmin, he would start to get worried, and look for him.

Maybe someone could save him.

His phone started ringing. So that had so mean that someone was looking for him, right? It meant someone would be coming for him. Maybe he won’t have to get hurt this time.

Maybe he could still-

“Grab him,” Jun commanded the other two. “We definitely have some time to kill.”


Changmin flinched as he heard the door to the bathroom violently open. Jun and his friends had left Changmin in the bathroom stall after beating him around, and Changmin couldn’t find the motivation to get up and leave.

“Changmin!” a familiar voice yelled.

In here! Changmin wanted to yell. He couldn’t get his voice to work, and a pathetic sob escaped his lips instead.

“Changmin?” the voice said again.

From beneath the stall, Changmin could see a familiar pair of sneakers approaching.

The door to the stall slowly swung open, and Changmin brought his gaze up to see Yunho standing over his pathetic form.

“Changmin,” Yunho breathed as he immediately crouched down to Changmin’s level. “Hey, Changmin,” he said again when the maknae flinched. Yunho brought his hand to Changmin’s face, wiping the younger one’s tears. He was quick to notice the bruise already forming on the left side of Changmin’s face.

Changmin wrapped his arms around Yunho, feeling secure once again. Changmin wasn’t sure what Yunho was doing here, but he wasn’t going to ask. He was just so grateful to see the leader.

“You scared us,” Yunho said gently. “We couldn’t find you.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. “I’ll text Jaejoong real quick and tell him I found you.”

Changmin wondered, if the others were this concerned, how long he had been in this bathroom. The torment seemed to have lasted for hours, but Changmin knew that was just his mind playing tricks on him then.

“Oh God, Changmin,” Yunho muttered as Changmin buried his face into Yunho’s chest. He felt his muscles clench in anger at seeing Changmin in this state. Whoever did this would pay, Yunho was sure of it. Yunho combed his fingers through Changmin’s disheveled hair. “You’re shaking so badly.”

If Yunho hadn’t said that, Changmin probably wouldn’t have noticed.

Changmin squeezed his eyes shut. He felt so much safer knowing that Yunho was here now.

“We...we have practice,” Changmin muttered. Changmin would happily be working himself to the bone at practice rather than sitting pathetically on the bathroom floor of his school.

Besides, he couldn’t give his band members further proof that he was just a liability.

“Practice can wait, Changmin,” Yunho said. His voice was so stern, but Changmin found it comforting. “You’re in no condition to practice yet.”

Changmin reluctantly separated from Yunho’s hold. “I’m okay.”

“You haven’t been okay for a long time,” Yunho countered. “Am I right?”

Despite what everyone thought about Yunho, there were times where he really didn’t want to be right.

Now would be one of those times.

He had suspected something was going on with Changmin at school. Yunho hated that he was always too distracted to give Changmin the attention he needed.

Maybe, if he had figured it out sooner, he could have stopped this.

Changmin bit his lip, his eyes shifting to the ground. “Really, Hyung. I’m fine.”

Yunho smiled. “Why does my Changminie always want to act tough?”

“Probably to stop you from calling me your ‘Changminie’,” he replied.

“I’ll stop calling you ‘Changminie’ when you stop being so cute.”

Changmin pouted. “I’m a man,” he argued. “You can’t go around calling men ‘Changminie’.”

“I can if the Changminie in question still asks for piggy back rides.”

Yunho turned serious, grabbing Changmin and hugging him once more. “You don’t have to pretend to be okay. Please remember that. I’m here for you, okay?” Yunho held him impossibly tighter. “And remember that I love, okay? I love you so much and if someone here is telling you differently then I need to know that they’re lying and they don’t know what they’re talking about. Okay?”

Changmin nodded. “Yunho?”

“Hm?”

“Even if we don’t go to practice, can we at least get off the floor? This is kind of disgusting.”

Yunho laughed, obeying Changmin’s request and helping the younger one stand.

“The rest of your day will consist of food, a shower, and bed,” Yunho said. What he didn’t mention was that he and their manager were going to make sure that the boys who did this to him would be found and punished, but he figured it was best to keep that part to himself for now. Yunho slung his arm over Changmin’s shoulders. “You got that?”

Changmin nodded.

Changmin didn’t care how he would spend his day from this day forward.

He was just grateful Yunho had showed up to make it better.

Chapter Text

Changmin knew he should enjoy his time here.

It wasn’t everyday that he found himself in Italy.

Italy was so beautiful; better than anything Changmin had imagined. But after the photo shoots, the recording, the constant wardrobe changes, and the incessant traveling, Changmin just wanted to spend today getting as much sleep as he possibly could.

Which is why he had to physically restrain himself from tackling Yunho and putting him in a chokehold when the leader started to wake him up.

In his sleepy haze, Changmin can smell something that faintly resembles caramel and vanilla.

Slowly, his eyes peel open to see Yunho standing above him, smiling brightly. “Good morning, Changmin,” the older one greeted.

Changmin just groaned in response and closed his eyes. He was still so tired. He only needed a couple more hours of sleep and-

“I bought pastries,” Yunho announced. “And one of those...macchiatos that you like so much.”

Changmin’s eyes opened open once more, noticing Yunho holding a large paper bag in one hand and a drink carrier in the other.

Why did Yunho always do something like this?

“Let’s eat, Min! We don’t want any of this getting cold.”

Changmin slowly rose from his bed, his thick blanket falling to his lap as he did so. He rubbed at his eyes as Yunho sat next to him.

Yunho chuckled, ruffling Changmin’s hair as he noticed the maknae’s disheveled state.

“Is that caramel?” Changmin muttered as he glanced at the drink in Yunho’s hand.

Yunho passed the drink to Changmin. “I hope I bought the right one?” he questioned “I don’t drink coffee like you do…” he trailed off, taking a sip of his own drink.

Changmin was certain Yunho had bought a hot chocolate for himself; that was all Yunho ever drank.

“You were still asleep when I woke up,” Yunho continued. “So I took a little walk,” he turned to Changmin, “we need to go out today. It’s so beautiful.” Surely, with all the sleep and coffee Changmin got, he would have enough energy to do a little sightseeing.

Changmin nodded as reached over to grab a pastry. He wasn’t up for going out today, but with Yunho, there’s no way he could escape.

Besides, he would probably regret it if he were in Italy, one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and never even bothered to experience it as much as he should have.

Changmin hummed as he took a bite out of his pastry. For once, he was actually happy with Yunho waking him up, because the food and macchiato were delicious.

Once Changmin had finished his food, Yunho forced him out of bed for real this time, and Changmin quickly got ready for whatever tourist adventure Yunho had planned for the both of them.

The problem was, once they left the hotel and started roaming the streets, they both realized that they didn’t actually have a plan.

The bigger problem was, getting lost in Milan was ridiculously easy.

Turns out, Yunho was not as good as reading a map as he thought he was. The streets of Milan curved and wound like restless snakes, and Yunho had been so fascinated by Milan’s fairy tale atmosphere that directions were the last thing on his mind.

When Yunho had actually said that he felt like he was living in a fantasy novel, Changmin couldn’t help but agree.

And while Changmin was well aware that many people were bumping into them as they all tried to fit in the busy walkways of Milan, Changmin still felt like it was just him and Yunho; as if both of them were inhabitants of their own private Milan.

Changmin really liked that feeling.

“Oh!” Yunho exclaimed, grabbing Changmin’s arm in excitement. “I know where we are!”

Changmin just glared at the older one. How many times in the past two hours had Yunho confidently uttered the words?

Yunho pointed excited to an old chapel up ahead. Like most of the buildings they saw, this one looked centuries old. “There’s the chapel I saw in that pamphlet we got!” Yunho explained with a big smile. “It’s called....called...the Do...Do-”

“Duomo?” Changmin guessed.

Yunho giggled. “Yeah, that’s the one.”

Changmin chuckled in amusement.

The two of them continued their aimless journey for another hour before Changmin declared that he was hungry.

They settled for a restaurant around the corner. The two of them had no idea what to expect, but once they walked inside, Changmin commented on how good the restaurant smelled, and Yunho took that to mean this restaurant met Changmin’s approval. They chose a table booth in the back corner. It was much quieter in that area, just like the two of them liked it.

“We still haven’t done any shopping,” Changmin commented as he slumped in his chair.

Yunho casually waved his hand. “We still have time for that.” He picked up his menu, solely relying on the pictures. The menu was in Italian, and Yunho really didn’t feel like putting in the extra work of using his phone to translate right now.

“Spaghetti carbonara,” Changmin muttered, studying his menu as well. He at least recognized those string of words. “I’ll just get that.”

Yunho folded his menu and placed it back on the table. “Then I’ll get that too,” he said with a laugh. “Let’s see if you make yours as good as they do here.”

Changmin huffed. “My spaghetti carbonara is great,” he said confidently.

“Changmin your spaghetti carbonara is great but I’m sure the Italians’ would be…” Yunho shrugged, “better…?”

He was sure he would pay for that statement later.

“I hope we do another photo shoot in a place like this,” Changmin muttered, completely changing the subject. Yunho figured he must have decided to ignore Yunho’s earlier comment.

Yunho nodded in agreement. He would love nothing more than to travel to another fairy tale city, dragging Changmin around as they get lost in it (because Yunho was absolutely sure it would happen again).

But he didn’t care.

Because being in a beautiful city with the most important person in his life was something Yunho treasured, and he’d do it over and over, as long as he was with Changmin.

Chapter Text

Changmin really couldn’t define Yunho.

Yunho was special to him, there was nothing more to say about that.

Maybe Changmin’s definition of Yunho changed according to the situation, because any time someone asked Changmin to describe Yunho, they always got a different answer.

These different answers weren’t just lies that Changmin had difficulty keeping straight. Changmin meant every word he said, even if his description was totally different from the one he might have given only a few hours ago.

Yunho was his shining light, his motivation, his happiness. How could Changmin define all that in just a few words?

Yunho has this weird ability to turn any dark and hopeless situation into a bright one.

He was Changmin’s support system from the beginning, and Changmin wasn’t sure how he could have survived his trainee days without Yunho constantly talking him up.

Changmin wasn’t sure how he would have survived any stage in life without Yunho.

That thought kind of scared him.

Before he joined SM, Changmin was the oldest child in his family, having two beautiful sisters to constantly look after. He did everything he could for them, because he loved them so much and wanted them to love him back.

Changmin was used to being independent and looking after others before he looked after himself.

But then he joined a group, and suddenly he was the youngest member in a group of five.

At first, Changmin thought the attention was weird. His members treated him like a needy toddler; always doting on him and teasing him at every opportunity.

After a while, Changmin came to like the attention, and after realizing how much of a soft spot Yunho had for him, Changmin decided to use that to his advantage as much as possible.

Changmin wasn’t so sure when he went from the independent older brother to the Changmin who constantly needed Yunho by his side.

But Yunho had never let him down before, so maybe realizing how much he needed Yunho wasn’t too much of a bad thing.

Yunho made Changmin want to be a better person.

Changmin remembered being a teenager and constantly looking up to Yunho. He thought Yunho was such an amazing person, and remembered wanting to be so much like him.

Anything he did, he always looked for Yunho’s approval, and felt his heart flutter whenever Yunho gave him one of his compliments.

Changmin was kind of embarrassed thinking back now.

He must have been so annoying back then; whining to Yunho when something annoyed him, constantly looking for Yunho’s praise when he did one “cool” thing, running to Yunho whenever he felt the tiniest hint of fear.

If Yunho was annoyed, he never showed it; he’d just give his signature smile and give Changmin whatever attention he was craving at the time.

Changmin remembered when he first met Yunho, and how all he could see was this scary sunbae that definitely hated him.

Only to learn that the strict, no nonsense trainee from Gwangju had the combined personality of a puppy and a kindergartner, and Changmin can’t believe he was so afraid of him in the first place.

Defining Yunho under one umbrella term was impossible for Changmin.

Yunho was his better half, his vitamin, his ally.

Yunho was Yunho.

Yunho was whatever Changmin needed him to be, and for that, there wouldn’t be enough “thank yous” in the world to express his gratitude.

Changmin knew that Yunho, more than anyone, deserved to be happy, and Changmin made a vow that he would do whatever it took to make sure that happened.

“I think I could live without you,” Changmin said to Yunho one night.

There was a pained look on Yunho’s face at the sudden statement, as if he would start crying at the next second.

“But I’d be sad a lot, I think,” Changmin concluded.

Yunho cupped his hands over his mouth in embarrassment. He already felt the heat rising in his cheeks. “Changdol really loves me?” He sighed in contentment, letting his hands fall to reveal a huge grin. “ My Changdol really love me.”

Changmin laughed. “Why are you so dramatic?” Leave it to Yunho ruin a sentimental moment with his theatrics.

“I’m not being dramatic,” Yunho clarified. “I’m just happy because you love me.”

Changmin sighed. Yes, Hyung. Your Changdol loves you. “Keep acting this way, and I’m walking out and leaving you to eat by yourself.”

Yunho kept smiling anyway.

One thing Changmin could always say about Yunho, is that once you start to love him, it was impossible to stop.

Chapter Text

Yunho had escaped to the rooftop, leaning on the ledge as he looked over the city. The quiet was the most peace that he had in a while. But with the quiet came all his worries bubbling over.

“The Rising Gods of the East.”

A bit pretentious , Yunho thought. Here they were, a group of five goofy kids, actually being compared to gods.

Yunho wasn’t sure if he should feel honored or anxious.

Having such a name brought on so much pressure.

Yunho knew that when the five of them were put together, they were considered “the best”. That’s what they had been told anyway.

But what if they weren’t the best?

The five of them have their flaws. He knew none of them were perfect. Yunho, for one, couldn’t even call himself a real vocalist, not yet anyway. Especially standing next to his other four members. His dancing skills are what got him into the door, and his leadership abilities and strict self discipline were what got him here today. He was ready to give his best, and he swore that he always would.

But the public would probably expect perfection, both on and off stage.

What if “his best” wouldn’t be enough?

To call themselves gods of the hallyu wave was so risky. How much more would the public expect from them with a name like that?

“If you guys are so great, if you guys are such gods, then prove it.” Yunho could imagine fans giving them that challenge. They would want them to prove their worth, and one mistake could ruin everything, couldn’t it?

What if they debut and let the fans down?

Yunho had always been up or any challenge that got thrown his way.

But could he really do this ?

Yunho wasn’t a god; he wasn’t some supernatural being. He was some seventeen year old kid from Gwangju with a pipe dream.

And now he was leader of a band of gods.

Yunho hugged his jacket tighter around him. Standing outside in the dead of winter wasn’t a good idea, especially with his debut tomorrow, but he couldn’t get himself to go back inside.

He trained hard for this. He thought he’d be ready for this. But as the day came closer to their debut, Yunho began to think that maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t good enough to be an idol. Maybe he wasn’t fit to be considered a “rising god of the east”.

He’d been counting down to their debut ever since he found out that he would finally be put in a group. He shouldn’t be this nervous, his mind shouldn’t be racing this much, his hands shouldn’t be sweating this much. But here he was, panicking over something that was supposed to be the best moment of his life.

He was excited, he was so very excited for this day. Becoming an idol was the only thing Yunho had ever wanted to do. All the hard work he put into his debut, all the sacrifices he made to be here, it was worth it. It will always be worth it. He knew that.

The other four members were nervous too; Yunho could easily tell. All four of them had their various signs that let Yunho know that something was not okay.

As their leader, Yunho couldn’t let them know he was nervous, could he?

He was the one they were supposed to go to when something was wrong. He was the one they were supposed to look up to.

What kind of message would he be sending to them if he let it show that he was completely terrified?

Jaejoong had been unusually quiet today; getting lost in his head as he tried to focus on calming himself down.

Yoochun wasn’t eating as much; butterflies had invaded his stomach as the D-Day approached.

Junsu couldn’t sleep; he was so excited, but he also had the jitters, and his body seemed to only run on adrenaline at this point.

And Changmin-

“Yunho?” a small voice from behind said. A voice that always made Yunho smile, no matter what.

He turned around, facing Changmin, staring into those big brown eyes Yunho loved so much.

“Hey, Changmin,” Yunho replied with a big smile, ignoring all the anxiety that had plagued him only seconds before. “Are you okay?”

Yunho knew, right away, that Changmin wasn’t okay. He was just as scared as the others, if not more.

Changmin cared so much about what people thought about him. He couldn’t help it. He craved approval. He always was worried about not being good enough.

Yunho had learned that when the two of them were still trainees together, and now Changmin was about to be thrown into the public eye to be judged by anyone and everyone.

“I’m fine,” Changmin finally answered, leaning on the ledge as Yunho had done moments before. “I just-” he exhaled “-we’re debuting.”

Yunho chuckled. Changmin had said it as if he thought Yunho wasn’t aware of what was going on.

“Yeah, Changmin,” Yunho replied. “I prayed so hard that you and I would debut together and we did! Isn’t that great?”

Changmin smiled shyly, but Yunho was happy to see him nod.

“You worked so hard to get here,” Yunho continued. He wrapped his arm around Changmin’s shoulders and pulled him close. “And now, you’re a rising god of the east, just like me! I’m so proud of you.”

Changmin’s cheeks instantly turned red, and Yunho had to stop himself from laughing more. Changmin got embarrassed so easily.

“It’s okay to be nervous, Changmin.”

“I...I don’t want to mess up,” Changmin confessed. “What if I mess up and ruin everything? What if we have to disband because of me and-”

“Hey, whoa,” Yunho interrupted. They hadn’t even made their official debut yet, and Changmin was already afraid of disbanding ? “You have the best voice out of all five of us. There’s no way you’d be the one to mess up.”

Changmin’s eyebrows raised in surprise. “You...you think I have the best voice?”

“Changmin, you sound like an angel! You’ll probably go down as being one of the best singers in the industry.”

A shy laugh escaped Changmin’s lips.

“If anything, we’ll probably become even more popular when people see how cute and talented our maknae is. There’s no way anyone would resist you.”

Leave it to Yunho to further embarrass Changmin.

Yunho gasped dramatically. “That’s it.” He snapped his fingers. “They put you in our group to be our secret weapon. If we get on stage and one of us messes up, no one can boo us because we’ll just direct the attention to you. There’s no way anyone will be mean after seeing your face. It all makes sense now. That’s why the company didn’t let you debut solo. They wanted you to be the one to save our sinking ship.”

Changmin laughed, and Yunho could see the tension slowly draining from Changmin’s body. He brought his arm down and held Changmin's hand, lacing their fingers together.

“I’m actually really glad I’m not debuting solo,” Changmin confessed. “Being on stage alone seems really scary.”

“And I’m glad that you’re gonna be with me on stage,” Yunho replied. “Whether or not you were sent to be the secret weapon, I always feel better knowing that you’re with me. It makes debuting a lot less scary.”

“R-really?” Changmin asked.

Yunho nodded. “Of course,” he said. “You’re much more powerful than you realize.”

“Do the other three think that about me?”

“Changmin, I’m pretty sure everyone you’ve ever met thinks that about you.”

Changmin laughed again.

“I’m so proud of you, Changminie. and you should be too.”

“We’re ‘The Rising Gods of the East’,” Changmin muttered. “I...kinda like that name.”

Yunho grinned. “It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?”

Changmin nodded.

“When I heard we were finally debuting, I felt as if I was on top of the world,” Yunho recalled. “So I think the name is fitting.”

“You deserve this, you know,” Changmin stated. “More than anyone here.”

Now Yunho was sure that his own cheeks were bright red now. “I wouldn't say I deserve it more than anyone else…”

“Well I think so,” Changmin replied.

Yunho chuckled.

“I think a lot of people will be jealous that you're not their leader. You were really hard on us, but you also treated us so well.”

“Sometimes I think you give me too much credit.”

“Yeah, and you don't give yourself enough,” Changmin argued.

Yunho couldn't believe that he was being scolded by Changmin, especially since that boy had been a nervous wreck up until a few minutes ago.

“You’re gonna be great at this, Hyung,” Changmin reassured. “And in the future, when we’re extremely successful, we’re gonna look back on this day proudly.”

“I’m proud already,” Yunho said truthfully.

“Are you nervous?” Changmin asked. “We’re gonna be on stage for the first time tomorrow. You’re the only one who seems to not be falling apart.”

Yunho shrugged. What could he say? He was trying to comfort Changmin, and telling him that he was nervous will probably make Changmin feel worse. On the other hand, lying to Changmin and saying that he wasn’t nervous will probably make Changmin feel bad about himself.

“Yunho?” Changmin asked, noticing Yunho’s hesitation.

Yunho sighed. “The truth?” he began. “I’m nervous. I’m really nervous.” He squeezed Changmin’s hand tightly. “But I’m gonna be okay. You know why?”

Changmin shook his head.

“I’m gonna be okay because I have you, I have the guys. My family is even coming! I’ll be okay, just like I’ll know you’ll be okay.”

“You shouldn’t be out here so long,” Changmin pointed out. He felt the cold biting his cheeks and hands, and couldn’t believe Yunho had been out here for over an hour.

“It was quiet out here,” Yunho explained. “But you’re right. I have to be in top shape for tomorrow.”

The two of them started making their way inside, Yunho’s arm once again slung around Changmin’s shoulders.

It was scary not knowing what the future held for the both of them. Maybe they’d be one of those bands that had one or two hit songs before completely disappearing into the background. Maybe they’d be a band that everyone would remember twenty or even thirty years later.

Yunho wasn’t sure.

But he did know one thing. He was going to give this everything he got.

He didn’t want to look back twenty years into the future and wonder what went wrong. He didn’t want to look back and see all the times he should have done better, or where he should have put in more effort.

Yunho looked to the boy walking alongside him.

He promised to always be someone Changmin could look up to, didn’t he?

He even promised the boy’s parents.

Yunho didn’t think it would take some spoiled kid from Seoul to motivate himself to do better and be the best version of himself.

“The Rising Gods of the East.”

Changmin was right; that name was incredible.

And whether their band lasted five years or fifty years, Changmin had somehow given Yunho the motivation to make those years count.

“The Rising Gods of the East”.

Suddenly that name didn’t seem so scary.

“The Rising Gods of the East”.

Yunho smiled.

Their debut was tomorrow.

“The Rising Gods of the East.”

There was no way anyone could forget a name like that.