“I’m thinking about going back to Korea,” Sehyung says one night and Inkyu almost doesn’t hear him the first time. “Hmm?”
“I said I’m thinking about going back to Korea,” Sehyung repeats and he says it like he’s reading a script, something well-rehearsed in front of a mirror.
“Okay,” Inkyu replies without looking up from his phone. It’ll hit him later that it’s a little strange that Sehyung is standing outside his doorway past 2AM, but at the moment all he really wants is to sleep.
“Okay?” Sehyung echoes back. Inkyu is slow to roll over on his bed so he settles for staring at the Sehyung’s back as he retreats back down the hallway. “Yeah. Okay.”
The thing is Sehyung says that kind of shit all the time.
Shit like: “I’m going to quit being pro-gamer if we don’t qualify for Worlds” and then after qualifying for worlds:
“I’m going to enlist in the army if we don’t win Worlds”- and then after winning worlds:
“I’m going to retire anyways.”
Which he didn’t follow through with and went instead with Inkyu to China to play for Vici Gaming. Sehyung’s statements are always conditional and, more often than not, complete bullshit. So really who’s going to fault Inkyu for standing there a little dumbly when Sehyung packs up his room into a stack of cardboard boxes the following weekend and asks Inkyu if he’s seen where the packing tape is?
“You’re leaving,” Inkyu says. It’s not a conditional statement, not even a question.
“I’m leaving,” Sehyung replies. He spots the roll of tape on the desk and grabs it with a triumphant smile. “I told you that a week ago.”
“Yeah, but-” Inkyu starts as Sehyung bends down to scribble something on a box. “Really?”
“Yeah,” Sehyung says. “I’m moving out on Wednesday.”
Again, it’s not conditional and the sudden realization that it’s already Monday afternoon sinks fast down Inkyu’s stomach.
“Wanna go out for a drink when I’m done packing?” Sehyung asks. He sets the last box, the final box, on the top of the heap and looks up expectantly at Inkyu.
He should say something, tell Sehyung to rethink all of this and that maybe it was little too hasty of a move, but instead all Inkyu can manage is a little head bob. At this point there’s not much he can say if Sehyung wants to leave the country, wants to leave him here. If Sehyung’s signed the contract with another gaming team, there’s nothing he can do.
Instead of caring or even pretending to care, Inkyu simply helps Sehyung cart the last three boxes into the hallway and washes his hands afterwards. The water feels cool on his fingertips, washing off the dust and sandy cardboard feeling and Inkyu sucks in a breath in spite of himself.
Three years of co-habitation, living up in each other’s faces and elbows and sharing stashes of ramen cups ends like this. Inkyu would be lying if he said that he hadn’t been looking forward to this day at least a little bit.
He would be lying even more if he said that he had actually thought of this day in advance.
If anyone cared to ask and Inkyu were drunk enough and had his guard lowered enough to answer, he would tell people that it’s true that he and Sehyung were awkward around each other. It wasn’t a front or something they made up for variety’s sake.
Inkyu is mathematically speaking, older. Despite both being born in the same year, Sehyung is technically supposed to call him hyung and be respectful and bunch of other things Sehyung definitely isn’t. They’re two months apart, 55 days with a gulf of awkward padded on either side.
Inkyu is as blunt as Sehyung is as outwardly bashful and Inkyu’s earliest memory of the two them involves Sehyung breaking his keyboard against wall as Inkyu called him some variation of “useless motherfucker of a support” after they went a full 0-7 on ranked. The next couple of memories were just about the same.
To be frank, they were two awkward, nerdy gamer guys to begin with and putting the two of them in close quarters wasn’t going to make all the awkward magically disappear. Even after nearly three years.
At the same time, some part of Inkyu felt invincible with Sehyung by his side, three chairs down and shotcalling from the end of the booth. To be fair, they had seemed invincible that season at worlds- smashing through groups, quarters, semis, one after another, fucking around with troll team compositions and still untouchable. Whether it was Sehyung that made Inkyu invincible or the other way around, no one ever quite knew and it never had to be questioned until now.
The most selfish and vindictive part of Inkyu hopes that Sehyung ends up completely useless, horribly out of form and on a losing streak so bad that he doesn’t dare show his face back in Korea. It’s a terrible thing to wish on anyone, but Inkyu doesn’t feel that guilt ridden since it’s Sehyung he’s trying to curse anyways. Odds are, if his curses didn’t work the first year met, they certainly weren’t going to start working now.
If anything, it makes him feel a little better knowing Sehyung probably thinks the same thing back at him. They’re spiteful bastards and both fully aware of the worst case scenario- that both of them end up useless and washed up without the other.
They drink in silence.
Which honestly isn’t that much of a surprise, Inkyu thinks. He's just happy that it’s not an awkward silence for once. It’s good to know that after three years, they’ve at least fixed one thing between them.
It normally takes Sehyung a couple of shots to loosen up. So Inkyu waits. He sets up camp in the jungle, across the table fro Sehyung and waits for the silence to crack. Two shots in and his cheeks only feel a little warm, but the alcohol does its trick like clockwork.
“You remember the time,” Sehyung starts and that breaks off to start laughing.
Inkyu peers at him over the rim of his glass. “What?”
“It feels like we suffered a lot in China, all the happy memories I can think of were back with Samsung,” he explains. He looks up and grins, pure evil. “Like that one time we made Seungbin wet his pants?”
“Priceless,” Inkyu chuckles. “Hyukkyu’s birthday prank?”
“That was good too,” Sehyung agrees. “Kid still thinks I have nudes of him on my phone.”
“You don’t?” Inkyu asks a little disappointed and Sehyung looks just as downcast before cracking a smile. “Nope, I lied.”
Between the two of them they’ll always mention the dumb stuff. The insignificant stuff, because thinking about their win at worlds just a year ago seems too much like what a retired pro-player would do. The shared knowledge that they peaked so long ago, just a year but decades in eSports player lifecycles, is a little damning.
“What else,” Sehyung muses, taking another sip of his drink. He’s flushed a cherry red now, eyes glassy and bright. “Oh wait, that fucking tandem bike we crashed.”
“Jesus not that,” Inkyu waves his arms around and stupidly tosses out half his drink out onto the table. He watches the alcohol slosh past his fingers and drip down his wrist. “Don’t even bring that up.”
“That was this year wasn’t it,” Sehyung says after a slight pause. “Was it?”
“I dunno,” Inkyu says back and his brain can’t process if he actually does or doesn't because his mouth is moving on its own now. “I don’t remember.”
“It wasn’t all bad,” Sehyung says and then there’s the conditional again. “Was it?”
“Nah, it wasn’t.” Inkyu knocks his shot back and savors the burn of it down his throat, into his churning stomach. He doesn’t drink as much as the others and definitely less than Sehyung, but the alcohol is enough to send him stumbling into Sehyung's arms when they try to stand back up to head home. Sehyung isn't much steadier himself, but he's upright enough to push Inkyu into a standing position and that's how they've always worked- two flimsy cards caught in motion by each other in the last possible second with neither of them stable enough to be alone.
"Let's get going," Sehyung says finally when they're steady enough to start putting one foot in front of the other. "Let's head home." And because Inkyu is too busy concentrating on how to put one foot in front of the other, he doesn't bother to correct him.
Sehyung's room is closer to the doorway and unanimously agreed upon to be their destination when Inkyu plops himself down on the floor and refuses to get back up.
"You asshole," is all Sehyung says and it's one of the fonder things he's called Inkyu when they're drunk and fumbling across the floor together. He pulls Inkyu up like he's weightless and drops him without further preamble onto the bed. The good thing about that as well is- first of all Inkyu's not sleeping on the floor tonight, and secondly, Sehyung's room has two beds in it. They're too separate beds too so nothing has to be awkward at all, except until Sehyung crashes down onto the same bed nearly squishing Inkyu in the process.
"I was on this one first." Inkyu flails an arm out and catches the edge of Sehyung's glasses. "Move."
"This is my room," Sehyung points out and refuses to budge no matter how Inkyu kicks at him.
"I always thought you were really stupid," Inkyu says sagging into the bedsheets, suddenly exhausted.
"And now?" Sehyung pipes up.
"You're still stupid," Inkyu says. "It's a miracle you made it this far in life."
"Same goes for you," Sehyung laughs back. "Look at us now, fucking miracle workers making millions playing video games."
"Everything sounds good when you put it that way," Inkyu grumbles, rolling onto his stomach. "Perfectly fucking peachy."
“But it's not, I wanted to go back to Korea,” Sehyung rambles from the other side of the bed. His voice is surprisingly loud and feels closer than it actually is. “I mean, what’s there to stay in China for?”
“Money,” Inkyu laughs tonelessly face down into the bed sheets. “Lots and lots of money.”
“Yeah,” Sehyung replies and maybe he’s a little drunk too, much drunker than Inkyu had expected. “What else though?”
Inkyu is silent for a moment. “Fans I guess.”
“Fans, sure.” Sehyung rolls over on his side. Inkyu can tell from the way the mattress shifts under them and he’s so very glad that he’s lying face first into the bed so he doesn’t actually have to look at Sehyung and his dumb face when he tells Inkyu- “You should come with me. I mean the internet here sucks, the food sucks, our team sucks- don’t even try to defend that one. Everything here at Vici sucks, just come with me."
“Stop whining,” Inkyu groans and he’s a little ashamed at how pitiful his voice sounds. “I like the food.”
It’s Monday night and in two days, Sehyung will be gone. It’s not forever and Inkyu isn’t dramatic enough like Seungbin to run out onto the street and try to stop the taxi from taking Hyukkyu away from the Samsung dorm to the airport.
"Yeah I guess the food is pretty good," Sehyung relents. He sucks in a breath and Inkyu can feel it coming, the oncoming exhale ready to blow down the house of cards they've reluctantly built together the past three years. "I haven't told anyone yet, but I signed on with Royal Club."
Inkyu blinks, and then very seriously considers suffocating himself and Sehyung with some pillows before he even wonders why. "Royal Never Give Up?"
"Yeah," Sehyung says. "Just thought you might want to know."
"That's-" it's Inkyu's turn to suck in a breath and hold back any and all expletives he's saved up over the past three years. After all that whining, the fucker isn't even go back to Korea. "You piece of fucking shit." is what Inkyu wants to say, but maybe he's matured after all or maybe after three years of yelling and cussing, this just isn't a battle worth fighting anymore.
“You’re not even going back to Korea,” Inkyu says a little numb. “You’re leaving me for more money.”
“Yeah,” Sehyung says as if that’s that and in a way it is. “I guess so.”
(Inkyu passes out first, of course. He sheds his shirt and tosses it onto the ground for some reason before completely going under. Sehyung’s drifting off to sleep too on his side of the bed, still tipsy. He looks over at Inkyu’s passed out form, limp and so so close and for some reason lifts his hand, reaching outward. It’s a dumb idea and if even completely-drunk-Sehyung knows that it’s a dumb idea there’s no way beginning-to-sober-up-Sehyung is dumb enough to even try. He brings his hand back down to his lap and finds his phone instead.
His arm shakes a little when he brings the phone up, level to Inkyu’s sleeping form. His mind is still slow, too slow to process why he feels the need to capture this moment and burn it into his mind forever. The flash goes off against the dimness of the room and the light catches Inkyu's bare back. Sehyung doesn't dare touch him, not like this.
Instead, he presses his thumb against the phone screen, across the white of Inkyu’s back and lingers.)
Two nights after Sehyung leaves, Inkyu dreams of winning worlds.
It’s the first time he’s had this dream in a while, and an even longer time that he’s revisited this particular memory.
The memory itself isn't even that old, but it's hazy at best. Everything had happened so fast, but even in his sleep Inkyu can parse out three distinct things that make his chest go tight still.
One- Sehyung bounding across the stage (past Seungbin and Wonseok and everyone else in the face of the cameras and thunderous applause) straight into Inkyu’s open arms.
Two- the lights of the stage and cameras flashing into his eyes- so bright but still somehow dim in the face of Sehyung's smile as he barreled into Inkyu so fast that Inkyu could feel his rapid fire pulse pressed up against his chest.
Three- Sehyung’s arms wrapping around him in a tight hold as he lifted Inkyu up, and Inkyu sagging into his hold, completely weightless on top of the world.