TITLE: The Lucky Ones
WARNINGS: Implied sexual content, referenced homophobia
SUMMARY: Runaways in love
FINAL NOTES: Firstly, a thousand apologies to the onlayforlu mods for being the worst possible writer and submitting this so late.
Um, idk how to feel about this fic? It doesn't feel like my writing and I'm honestly not quite satisfied with the end result since I had so many more plans for it but time constraints happened. I'm also writing your dog groomer prompt, recipient-nim, so I'll hopefully have that posted for you and maybe you'll like that one more.
The tic begins early in the day, thumb twitching sporadically as he struggles to maintain composure, sitting on his hands so as to escape the eagle-eyed notice of his mother at the breakfast table. She’s tired today, bags under her eyes more pronounced as she scoops eggs on a plate to be placed in front of his father, who never looks up to acknowledge either of them. Wrinkled knuckles grip the newspaper, TV droning in the background, smell of burnt coffee creating a thick miasma of misery and Luhan wants to run, needs to run away from all this. He chews quickly, biting his tongue, salty copper filling his mouth. “May I be excused?”
Neither parent looks up but he receives a barely perceptible nod so he stands, carrying the plates over to the sink. “Bring milk home after work.” Her tone is dry, she isn’t even looking at him, yet for once, he feels something akin to affection for her. He reaches over to squeeze her hand, letting go when he receives only a blank stare in response. “I will.” He will. It’s the least he can do for them.
“When you get home tonight,” the rough, smoke-tinged timbre of his father’s voice rings through the room, “we need to sit and have a serious discussion about your college plans. You can’t keep slacking like this forever.”
The air is tense, the other parties waiting for the inevitable blowout, for Luhan to yell that teaching at the dance studio is not slacking, that he has no desire for college, for the 9-5 monotony they want him to conform to. It never comes; today Luhan has no will for the fight. “Okay, dad.” There’s surprise on his father’s face, before he schools his features back into indifference, eyes returning to the newspaper as Luhan leaves the kitchen.
The bike ride to town feels different today when he knows it’ll be the last time he takes this route, every pothole and patch of dead grass suddenly carrying more meaning in it. He passes the ramshackle houses, paint peeling of the walls as people fan themselves on the front porch, as tough and weary as the buildings they call home. On and on he bikes, sun beating down on his neck, sweat rolling between his shoulder blades, leaving a sticky residue on his skin. He approaches town in record time, slowing down as he arrives at Main Street. He doesn’t head for the dance studio. There’s no need to—Jongin had accepted his resignation the week before. He heads left instead, towards the old playground.
It’s empty today, the heat having drawn everyone indoors. Sehun’s waiting for him under the slide, pressing a cold bottle of water to his back. He waves when Luhan approaches.
“All set?” His tone is soft as he appraises Luhan, critically eyeing his thin tank top and shorts. “You should’ve worn something warmer; it’s going to get cold tonight.”
“I packed sweaters.” He sits down across from him, dry sand adhering to his skin. Sehun’s hair is almost distractingly bright in the sunlight, the blond he’d gotten down in his last trip to the city flattering the porcelain of his skin. He indicates the small duffel bag beside him. “I packed you guys some food. “
“Thank you.” Luhan pulls the canvas tote closer, unzipping it to inspect the contents. All the clothes he’d slowly been smuggling out of his room for the past week, along with his laptop and the folder with the documents for the apartment lease. There’s a small envelope and he pulls it out, gasping when he sees the wad of bills. “Sehun, I can’t accept this.”
“It’s not a gift, it’s a loan. I expect you to pay me back by the time I head down for college.” Sehun’s tone is flat but the way he fists his hands into the hem of his shirt gives him away and Luhan’s heart fills because how, how did he get so lucky to have a best friend like this. He knows that if it weren’t for Sehun’s steadying presence behind him, he would’ve chickened out of this plan long ago. Sehun’s always been the more self-assured of the two despite being younger, quiet confidence and steady determination that’s getting him out of this dead-end town through a full scholarship to university. Luhan has no doubt that when Sehun says he expects his money back, he means it but it’s also his own quiet way of reassuring him.
He wants to sit there a little while longer, lean his head against Sehun’s shoulder and just breathe but practicality wins out. He dusts his shorts off as he stands, tugging Sehun up with him. “I should head out.” He fishes the folded notepaper out of his shorts, smoothing the crinkles out. “Can you—pick up some milk from the grocery store and take it around to them?”
Sehun nods, taking the paper, the ‘them’ hanging in the air. “Go,” he says simply and Luhan scoffs, tugging him in for a hug. Sehun’s grip is fierce, clinging to him tightly before he pulls away. “Go.”
He’s back on his bike, duffel precariously perched in front of him, nylon straps of his backpack cutting into his shoulder as he pedals, eyes fixed straight ahead. The small road sign outside the city is his destination, a dull, grey beacon that has never seemed more important than now.
He hears him before he sees the car, Yixing’s voice carrying as he sings loudly and obnoxiously, Jongdae’s decidedly more melodic tone providing a backup. He smiles when they both come into view, seated on the hood of Yixing’s beat-up Toyota, Yixing playfully tickling the shorter man who tries to squirm away in between loud yells for help. Jongdae spots him first, waving frantically and Yixing lets go of him, grinning widely. He jumps off the hood, running to meet him and Luhan brakes hard before he ends up accidentally steamrolling his boyfriend. Yixing leans on the handlebars, pulling himself up to plant a kiss on Luhan as Jongdae makes retching noises in the background.
“You made it.” There’s relief in his tone and Luhan beams down at him.
“You expected otherwise?”
Laughing, Yixing helps him dismount, tugging the backpack off his shoulders and Luhan flexes, rolling them back to soothe the ache. Jongdae bounds over to them, and claps him on the back.
“Okay, my little star crossed-lovers, let’s do a small checklist, shall we?” Jongdae loops an arm around both their shoulders, tugging them closer. “First things first, did everyone pee beforehand? Never make a life changing decision without using the bathroom first, that’s my motto.”
Luhan rolls his eyes and drones out, “Yes,” alongside Yixing.
“Secondly, do you guys have the apartment documents for when you meet Kris? Cash on hand for food, accommodation and the deposit?” Jongdae ticks off on his fingers as he hears them respond in the affirmative. “Okay, now most importantly," he tugs them both closer, “are you both absolutely sure this what you want to do? Any objections should be voiced now.”
Luhan sucks in a breath, through his teeth, eyes darting up to meet Yixing’s. He searches for hesitation; any sign of uncertainty that could send this entire fragile plan falling to the floor but all he sees staring back at him is acceptance, in the soft curve of Yixing’s smile as he looks back at him. “I do,” He murmurs, words so soft they could be carried away by the wind but Yixing hears them and responds in kind. Jongdae bumps their heads together.
“I now pronounce you runaways in love. You may leave.” He pulls them both in for hugs, ruffling Yixing’s hair viciously. “Call me when you get to town, don’t make me worry.”
“As if you would.” Luhan laughs at Jongdae’s mock-wounded expression. “We’ll call, I promise.”
Jongdae leaves with a loud shout and a wave, pedaling back into town on Luhan’s bike. It’s just them now, standing under the shadow of the road sign and Luhan lets out a soft sigh as Yixing tugs him closer.
“You ready?” he murmurs into his hair and Luhan nods, dipping his head back for another kiss. They load his bags into the trunk, Luhan fishing the food and the money out first. The engine echoes loudly as it starts up, the sound piercing the air and it makes him oddly nervous. He holds Yixing’s hand tightly until the other has to let go to drive.
They drive in silence, the atmosphere uncertain as Yixing weaves them along the old road out of town, Luhan staring out the window at the passing scenery, not really taking any of it in. The reality doesn’t kick in until the landscape changes from open fields to the smooth paved road as they merge onto the highway. He feels a strange burst of elation in his chest as they pass the 50 mile sign and he’s laughing by the time they reach a road sign that doesn’t even have the name of his town written on it.
He tugs on Yixing’s sleeve suddenly restless. “Pull over.”
“Does it have to be right now? I think we should keep going, we want to reach the next—”
“Pull over, Yixing.”
Yixing complies, steering them off the road into a small thicket of trees. He’s barely turned off the engine before Luhan’s unbuckling his seatbelt, climbing into his lap. His surprised gasp is cut off by a pair of lips and it doesn’t take Yixing long to get with the program, hands sliding under Luhan’s tank top as he sucks on his bottom lip, moaning as Luhan’s hands find the drawstring of his sweatpants.
He’s missed this so damn much, the touch of Yixing’s guitar-callused fingers on his body, the salt of his skin under his tongue, his voice as he moans out Luhan’s name when he wraps slim fingers around his cock. “Fuck—backseat, move to the backseat, Luhan.”
It’s thrilling in a different way this time when they fuck, lube dribbling all over the seat and movements stilted by the cramped space. They’ve had their clandestine sessions before, Luhan sneaking Yixing into his room when his parents were out, hasty blowjobs done in the field behind his house. Right now there’s the added rush of knowing that they’re together, knowing that there’s no chance of them being caught by overly-inquisitive neighbours, no chance of Luhan’s reputation being dragged through the mud. He laughs when he comes into Yixing’s hand, pressing light butterfly kisses to his face as the other chases his own release, letting out the most delicious sound when it overtakes him. They stay like that for a while, naked in the backseat, arms around each other until Yixing disentangles them gently.
“We really should keep moving.”
“But I’m sleepy,” Luhan whines, tugging him closer and it’s true, nerves having kept him up all last night and the tiredness in him now from his post-orgasmic haze, eyes drooping.
Yixing cleans them up with some fast food napkins he finds in the glove department, shrugging back into his pants. “You rest, I’ll drive.” He throws Luhan’s shorts at him. “Put these on. Last thing we need is a public indecency citation.”
“Like anyone can even see in,” Luhan gripes but tugs them on anyways. “Wake me up when you get tired, I’ll take over the driving.”
“It’s fine, babe, just sleep.” Yixing pulls back onto the highway, car engine sputtering as they drive and the rhythm lulls him to sleep.
The first day of driving passes like that, in a haze of adrenaline-tinged euphoria. They drive for almost six hours straight, with only a rest station stop in between. Luhan feeds Yixing sandwiches from the passenger seat, laughing as the other licks mayonnaise off his fingers. They turn up the radio and sing along to whatever comes on, making up lyrics when neither of them recognize the song. Luhan takes over the night shift, fingers white knuckled on the steering wheel—he’s never driven on the highway before and it’s equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. When neither he nor Yixing are able to keep themselves awake any longer, cheap truck stop coffee only serving to make their bathroom stops more frequent, they park outside a McDonalds, opting to save their meager funds by sleeping in the car. It’s cramped, and slightly painful, limbs jutting out in odd places but they make do, Yixing squirming until his head is resting on Luhan’s chest, fingers knotted in his t-shirt. He falls asleep first and Luhan strokes his hair, as he stares out the car window, angle making his neck cramp. There’re less stars to be seen from here, he notices and it’s an oddly depressing thought.
Some of the novelty is wearing off by the morning. They’re woken up by a loud rapping on the window and yelling. The manager of the McDonalds swears at them, threatening to phone the police until Yixing placates him by saying they’ll purchase food before leaving. He leaves them be, muttering slurs under his breath that leave Luhan feeling dirty and make him flinch away from Yixing’s touch.
He splashes water on his face in the restaurant’s tiny bathroom, gargling with mouthwash. He stares at his reflection in the dingy lighting, trying to see if anything’s changed, whether this massive changed has manifested itself in physical form. He’s almost disappointed to find he looks the same, if a little more disheveled. He changes into a new shirt, grimacing when he sees the dried stains on the hem of his tank top. He balls it up and steps outside, studiously avoiding the gazes of the employees as he exits. Yixing is waiting outside by the car, food perched on the hood as he stretches. He winces as he twists and Luhan feels a flash of concern; Yixing’s waist is probably acting up again. Before, Luhan would’ve made him lie down, straddled his hips and massaged his lower back, working the kinks out. Right now, however, he’s feeling petulant and irritable so he ignores him, grabbing the food as he sits in the passenger seat.
Yixing follows soon after, stripping his shirt off in the front seat to change. “Do you have to do that right now?” Luhan hisses through his teeth, ever mindful of the stares of people walking by. Yixing gives him a sideways glance, saying nothing as he starts up the engine.
The drive is silent right now, a tense, cloying atmosphere and it allows Luhan to stew. He thinks of his parents, imagining their reactions to Sehun showing up at their doorstep to deliver the note. He wonders if his mother had cried, if his father had yelled, or whether their apathy towards his existence had extended even to him running away. He wonders if his mother went and sat in his room with the door shut, like she did when his brother left for college, whether she hates him, thinks he’s a failure, unintelligent, unambitious, an unfilial waste of a person. He doesn’t realise he’s crying until he feels the soft brush of Yixing’s fingers over his cheek, tears smearing across the skin. “Lu?” He’s concerned and Luhan hates him right now, doesn’t want to look at him.
“I’m fine.” He chokes out, twisting his head away. Yixing’s reflection in the rearview mirror looks hurt and Luhan is a terrible person but he needs to be selfish right now.
He falls asleep an hour in, until he’s shaken awake by Yixing who silently points towards the gas station bathroom. He gets out, rubbing at the grit in his eyes. The men’s bathroom is putrid and he pees quickly, gagging at the scent. There’s graffiti scrawled on the walls, names and numbers faded over time and he reads it while washing, wondering if this bathroom was a haven for people like him and Yixing, a secret rendezvous point. Or maybe he’s unnecessarily romanticizing a gas station bathroom.
When he re-emerges, he expects to see Yixing at the pumps. Instead it’s empty. He whirls around, searching for a sign of the rusty red vehicle. It’s not there and he feels panic rise up his throat, bitter as bile as he realises he’s alone in a gas station miles from his home with no money. He starts yelling for Yixing, loud cries turning into sobs as he screams, running around frantically. He’s hysterical, and he sees people in passing cars turn to stare as he collapses against the side of the road, arms wrapped around himself, still moaning Yixing’s name. There’s a firm grip on his bicep and he screams, thrashing violently, trying to shake the person loose. It isn’t until he’s pinned to the ground, that he hears Yixing, yelling loudly to be heard over him.
“Luhan, love, please, it’s okay, I’m here, I’m here,” Yixing sounds desperate as he links their fingers, other hand coming to cup his face, “It’s okay, it’s okay.”
“You left me,” he chokes out, pushing away from him, panic now replaced by white-hot fury. “I came back and there was no one here and fuck, Yixing, you’re such a fucking idiot!” He rears his arm back, and Yixing gasps when his fist makes contact with his stomach. He doubles over, gasping and Luhan pushes him away, swiping angrily at his own cheeks. He stomps to the car, yanking the door open with enough force to make the hinges squeak. He curls up in the backseat. Arms over his head, sniffling and taking deep shuddery breaths, nose blocked up. He hears the car door open and Yixing’s hands on his legs. “Go away.”
“Luhan, please.” Yixing tugs at his arms, taking his hands in his and tugging him into a sitting position. He’s kneeling on the asphalt outside the car and Luhan feels a small flicker of concern for his knees. “Please, baby, I’m so sory.”
“You can’t leave me like that,” he whimpers, squeezing Yixing’s hand tightly, hard enough to hurt but he says nothing. “I need you, Yixing, I was so scared when I didn’t see you.”
“I know, I was so stupid. I saw a fruit stand when we were driving in, and I wanted to get some. I should’ve said something first. I’m sorry.” Yixing presses soft kisses to his fingers, until his grip loosens. “Are you okay now?”
“Yeah,” he breathes out, voice hoarse from yelling. He tugs Yixing up. “You’ll hurt your knees.”
“It’s fine.” Yixing dusts his legs off. “Do you want to drive for a while?”
He takes over the wheel, grounding himself through the routine of driving, pull clutch, accelerate, press on the brakes, rinse and repeat. Yixing keeps a hand on his neck as he drives, a soft, comforting presence. He has bags under his eyes, skin pallid and Luhan feels guilt lurch in his stomach again because this is hard on Yixing too yet he’s the one being strong for both of them. He swore to himself when they’d first started planning their escape, through whispered conversations in the back of Yixing’s truck and Sehun acting as go-between, that he would pull his weight this time around. He wouldn’t let Yixing shoulder the entire burden. He turns at a red light to brush his lips against Yixing’s palm, sighing softly when his fingers come up to cup his face. He’s weak, still so weak. Everything his father said is coming true.
They stay at a cheap roadside motel that night, despite the dent it puts in their already-meager funds but if it prevents another morning of aches and stares, it’s worth it. The girl at the counter stares when they ask for a single but stays silent and Luhan is grateful. The room leave a lot to be desired, paint faded and sheets scratchy, packets of dried pretzels as all they have for amenities but the shower works and it feels good to wash away two days’ worth of grime, grey-tinged water flowing down the drain. He cuddles into Yixing’s side as they watch some bad cop show, the other feeding him cherries. It’s surprisingly chaste given the context, but neither of them feel up to fooling around and Luhan feels happy with just this, Yixing’s head in his lap, fingers loosely brushing over his ankle. He starts when the other speaks. “Hey, do you think your parents called the police?”
He tenses but it’s something that had been on his mind as well. “Probably.” He can imagine his mother sitting thin-lipped and tired in the creaky chairs of the local precinct as his father yells at the sheriff.
“Is there any chance they could trace us?” Yixing looks nervous and Luhan squeezes his hand in reassurance. “We covered up our tracks. Plus I left a note so they can’t file a missing person’s report. I’ll be 18 in two months, the police won’t care.”
“It’s just—” Yixing plays with his fingers. “They must be worried. I know they weren’t always fair to you, but every parent cares for their kid.”
It’s such a Yixing thing to say, to be concerned for two people who had only ever considered him to be scum, lower than the dirt on their shoes. The last time Yixing had met Luhan’s parents was when his father had pointed a sawed-off shotgun at his chest while a half-naked Luhan cowered behind him, threatening to kill him if he ever came near his son again, filthy heathen that he was. Luhan tugs Yixing up until they’re chest to chest, head tucked into the crook of his collarbone. “I wanted a clean break from them before beginning this. But if it makes you feel less guilty, I can give them a call from a payphone or something when we get to the city.”
Yixing turns him over to the side, putting an arm over his waist and normally Luhan would make some crack about being the little spoon all the time but he’s sleepy and Yixing is warm and smells like cheap hotel soap and cherries. “Do whatever feels right for you, babe. You know how important family is to me, that’s why I mentioned it.”
“You’re my family now,” Luhan murmurs half into his pillow, eyes falling shut and maybe if he were less tired, less worn down from the day he’d never let something so utterly cheesy pass from his lips, despite how acutely he means it. Yixing says nothing, just tightens the arm around his waist.
It’s dawn when they set out for their last day of driving, Luhan leaning sleepily against the glass as he stares at the purple-blue of the sky. Yixing presses a kiss to his cheek. “Sleep. We’ll be there in a few hours.”
The next time he opens his eyes, they’re on the bridge outside the city, stuck in a traffic jam and he rubs the grit out of his eyes, sitting up slowly to look around. It’s awe-inspiring, the sights of so many cars and people and the tall buildings in the distance. He wordlessly reaches for Yixing’s hand and the other takes it.
“When we get there, we’ll go to the apartment first. Kris found us a small one-bedroom; it’s not much but it’s cheap. I can support us for a little while until you can start looking.” Yixing rubs his thumb in soft brushes against Luhan’s knuckles. “It’ll be fine.”
He nods, wordlessly staring out of the window as they drive along, past shiny storefronts and people who carry with them a veneer of untouchability. They drive and drive until they’re in a poorer part of the city, apartment buildings crammed together, grey facades matching the ashen-faced occupants slumped on balconies. Luhan feels an acute sense of deja vu at the sight. Yixing parks in front of one such building, the peeling sign at the front announcing it as ‘Wonderland Apartments.’ Whoever named this place had a strange sense of humor.
They have a backstory ready in case of a prying landlord, two high school friends working in the city rooming together but the old man at the reception barely gives them a second glance, flipping through the bills Yixing hands him with yellowed-cigarette stained fingers before slapping a set of keys onto the counter. There’s no elevator; they make their way up six flights of stairs, tiles grimy and stained and Luhan blanches as he spots a rust-coloured splotch that looks suspiciously like blood. Yixing just takes his hand, tugging him faster up the stairs.
The apartment looks foreboding, even from the outside with its faded red door and a cloud of dust greets them as they enter. Coughing, Yixing flips on the light and they both take it in. Kris hadn’t been exaggerating about the size: the space is claustrophobically narrow, a small kitchenette merging with a living area and a bathroom off to the side. Yixing scratches his head as he stares at him expectantly and Luhan knows he’s waiting for some kind of reaction. He tries for a smile, that probably comes out more like a grimace. “It’s...cosy.”
Yixing snorts. “That’s one way to put it.” He places his duffel on a plastic fold-out chair the previous tenant had left behind, the only furniture in the space. “It’ll take some work, but we can make it good, yeah?”
“We can,” Luhan agrees as he gingerly steps further into the living space. He sees something skitter out of the corner of his eye and resists the urge to run screaming. He turns to Yixing. “Can we go explore a bit?”
Yixing sheepishly rubs the back of his neck. “I actually have a class I’m scheduled to teach at the dance studio today.”
“Oh.” And Luhan is once again reminded that Yixing has an entire life out here that he didn’t know about.
Yixing looks guilty. “I’m sorry babe, I really want to take you around but I can’t afford to miss classes.” We need the money, he doesn’t add but it hovers in the air between them.
Luhan pulls on a smile, giving Yixing a small push. “Go. We can explore another time.”
Yixing kisses him before he leaves and then it’s just Luhan standing in a dank little apartment, looking about as grimy as he feels. There’s an insistent pressing against his bladder but he’s not quite ready to confront the potential horrors residing within the bathroom. He instead takes the money envelope out from the bottom of his duffel and locks the door behind him on his way out.
He manages to wrangle the location of a convenience store out of the landlord and he heads off in the direction he’s been told. The sidewalks are narrow, people brushing by with barely a second glance. He clutches his bag to his chest tighter; he’s heard all the horror stories about muggings in dark alleys and doesn’t quite fancy that happening on his first day.
The kindly old lady at the grocery store takes pity on the bumbling country boy and shows him where the cleaning products are, chatting his ear off in the process. Once he’s finished buying everything, weight of his shopping bags almost causing him to topple sideways as he bows to the lady, he heads back, hyper-focused on searching for the same road signs he’d seen on his way. His pace slows when he sees a payphone out of the corner of his eye and he pauses outside, feeling the weight of coins in his pocket.
His hands tremble as he dials the number and he almost hangs up when he hears the tone. He stands there, eyes staring blankly at the numbers scrawled along the phone booth walls promising him an unforgettable night for cheap as he waits and waits and waits. He’s about to hang up when it picks up and a soft voice on the other end murmurs, “Hello?”
It’s amazing how the sound of his mother’s voice can reduce him to feeling three years old again and wanting to run into her arms, have her swing him around, face still possessing the joy that had been leeched out of her all this years. There’re tears in his eyes, throat raw as he responds to her second greeting. “Mama, it’s me.”
There’s silence on the other end and then he hears her gasp out, voice faint. “Luhan?”
He wants to sob but he forces himself to get the words out. “Mama, I’m okay, I have a place to stay, I’m fine.”
“Luhan, where are you?” Her voice is frantic now. “We have the police out looking for you, they took Sehun in for questioning—”
There’s a scuffle on the other end before another voice speaks and Luhan flinches. Even from miles away through the crappy reception of the payphone, his father manages to make him feel small. “Where the fuck are you, boy?” his father snarls. “You listen to me and listen carefully, you get back here immediately—”
He hangs up, almost ripping the cord in his haste to push it away. He’s hyperventilating, he can feel another panic attack creeping, and he takes his bags and runs, knocking into people as he stumbles back to the apartment building. He makes it up three flights of stairs before his legs give way and he sinks to the floor, head between his legs as he tries to breathe it away, the familiar four-count breathing sequence that gives his mind something to focus on.
Once he drags himself to the apartment, on still-wobbly legs, he starts cleaning, the repetitive motions soothing in their monotony. His fingers are cracked by the time he’s finished scrubbing the bathroom tiles (after first spraying the room with a mushroom cloud of bug spray and sweeping out the roach bodies). The apartment still looks shabby but less like it could be cordoned off as a toxic waste zone, weak sunlight filters through the freshly-washed windows. His limbs ache but it’s the pleasant thrum that comes from physical labour, reminiscent of long days spent on the farm hauling bags of feed. There’s still no furniture so he pulls out the clothes he had brought, smoothing out the wrinkles as best he can as he folds them. A stack of t-shirts serves as a makeshift pillow and he tries to get as comfortable as he can on the hard floor.
He’s shaken awake what feels like minutes later and he whines softly in the back of his throat. Yixing’s voice filters through, amusement in his tone. “C’mon Lu, I brought food. Wake up, wake up, wake up.” He punctuates each word with a push until Luhan’s grumbling and pulling himself into a sitting position.
“You suck,” he croaks out and Yixing just pouts, leaning in to press a kiss to his forehead, smelling like sweat and the wood polish of the dance studio, and it sends a familiar stirring in Luhan’s chest. But Yixing pulls away and fishes out takeout container, the smell of chilli and meat heavy in the air and Luhan’s stomach lets out a loud grumble. They eat straight from the container, scrambling to avoid staining the carpet (although if Luhan had his way that eyesore would be ripped out). They have a small argument over the last piece of beef (“I bought it.” “Well, I’m the reason the floor is clean enough to eat on.”) which ends when Yixing pops it into his mouth, grinning before he’s tackled to the floor by Luhan. They roll around, a mess of flailing limbs and Luhan shrieks when Yixing starts tickling his fingers into his side; he nearly elbowing him in the nose as he tries to get away. When they finally regain their breath, the room is a mess of clothing, all of Luhan’s neatly folded laundry piles destroyed. Yixing laughs when he sees his disgruntled expression, reaching over to smooth away the lines around his eyes. “I’m having Kris bring over my stuff from the student center tomorrow. You can iron them properly and put them away.”
Luhan relents and they turn the clothes pile into a nest of sorts, cuddled up together with Yixing’s backpack as a pillow. And Luhan loves Yixing, really he does, but this sleeping arrangement needs to be rectified as soon as possible. He shifts until he’s back-to-chest with the other. “Please tell there’s a bed in that furniture delivery Kris is bringing.”
Yixing brings an arm over, pinching him playfully. “He is but it’s a single so it’ll be a squeeze anyways.” He laughs at the little whine Luhan lets out. “I was thinking we could go down to the charity store on the weekend, buy some new stuff for the place. Maybe we can score a double.”
“And cooking stuff, and new sheets and curtains, maybe a radio,” Luhan’s voice trails off, eyes drooping slightly and the steady breathing behind him indicating Yixing is already dead to the world.
In hindsight, he should’ve known. It was all going too smoothly, too perfect. And Luhan had been stupid, so, so stupid for not thinking that one phone call through.
He gets up in the middle of the night to pee, blinking the sleep out of his eyes as he squints in the dim light of the bathroom. There’s a faint thumping noise through, most likely people in the hall and he ignores it. Everything echoes through the cheap walls.
He’s washing his hands when he hears the slam and he freezes, terrified expression reflecting back at him from the bathroom mirror. There’s several thumps, a mild scuffle and suddenly a loud cry from Yixing. That’s what it takes to break Luhan from his stupor, he bolts, slamming the bathroom door open as he round the corner to the living room.
The scene feels surreal, edges blurred as if he’s watching this through someone else’s eyes. A man in a blue uniform who has a disheveled Yixing in his grip (his waist, he’ll hurt his waist ), their landlord standing off to the side, looking as apathetic as ever and beside him—
“Luhan!” His mother darts forward, hands on either side of his face as he scans him frantically. She’s bodily shoved to the side and then there’s a sharp sound and a searing pain on his cheek.
His father stands before him, eyes flint-black with revulsion. “You worthless little bastard,” his voice cuts across the haze of Luhan’s thoughts. “The amount of trouble you’ve put us through—” he rears his hand back but the officer clears his throat, drawing their attention towards him.
“I’m assuming you’ve found your son then.” He gestures towards Luhan. “I can take this one down to the station to file charges.” He shakes Yixing.
“Charges?” Luhan stares back and forth between the three adults. “You’re going to arrest him?”
“Abduction of a minor.” His father’s smile is poisonous.
“You can’t do that!” Luhan’s throat is constricting and he tries to push it down, the familiar curling tendrils of panic. “I came willingly with him.”
“The age of consent is 18,” the officer says. “So, yes we can do that.”
Luhan meets Yixing’s eyes and in them he sees the same fear mirrored in his own and he knows what he has to do. He turns back to his parents. “If I come with you, will you let him go?”
His father laughs. “If you come with us? You think you have a choice in this?”
“Please.” Luhan’s voice is broken and he aims his pleas towards his mother this time, standing silently behind his father. “I’ll do anything. I’ll go to college, I won’t run away again, I’ll be good, just please, please let him go.” His voice cracks on the last word and he can hear Yixing’s weak protests but he ignores them, fixing his eyes solely upon his parents. His mother lowers her gaze, fingers twisted into the sleeve of his dad’s shirt. The man continues to stare at him before turning to the officer. “Let him go.”
The officer drops Yixing’s arm. “You won’t be filing charges?”
“Too much trouble anyways.” His father has Luhan’s arm in a tight grip as he steers him towards the door. “If that son of a bitch knows what's good for him, he won’t come near us again.”
“My things,” Luhan protests weakly as he’s dragged forward. He twists his head around, craning desperately to find Yixing.
Months later Luhan will wish he’d never turned back, never had to see Yixing’s tear-covered face as he stands in their apartment, clothes strewn around the floor like the broken dregs of all their dreams.
So he goes back, the gray, dusty fields mocking him as he stares dully out at them from the backseat of his parent’s car. He goes back and lets himself be enrolled into classes, lets himself be insulted and yelled at by his father, let’s the taunts of his neighbors slide off him. He’s numb and unfeeling, going through the motions of everyday life.
The only time he feels anything anymore is when he drinks, the burn of alcohol down his throat reminding him in all its startling intensity that he’s not quite dead yet. The prickling wetness in his eyes is the closest he gets to crying at any rate. Sehun sneaks into his room most nights, creases around his eyes growing deeper as he watches his best friend drink himself into a stupor but he stays to make sure Luhan doesn’t choke on his vomit. On his good days, Luhan is grateful for Sehun’s presence, making an effort to try and speak, crack a few jokes. On his bad days, which are more and more becoming the norm, he spits poison, cursing Sehun, asking him why he just doesn’t leave him the fuck alone, let him choke to death on his own vomit like he so clearly wants. Sehun never reacts and Luhan always feel worse in the morning for it.
Today is poised to be more of the same, him stumbling home from college, mind already fixed on the bottle of whiskey hidden under his mattress when a car pulls up beside him and a familiar voice yells out. “Luhan!”
He turns in disbelief, shielding his eyes. “Yifan ge?”
Kris nods, gesturing for him to get inside. He follows suit, frowning at the other. “What are you doing here? You haven’t been back in years.”
“And for good reason. This place is still as soul-suckingly depressing as I remember.” Kris grimaces, staring around at the closed storefronts on Main Street.
“Are you here to see Ma?” Luhan tries again.
Kris’ face tightens, like it always does at the mention of their mother but he shakes his head. “No. I’m here to take you to the airport.”
Luhan blinks at him. “What?”
“You heard me.” The sudden rumbling of the car engine causes him to jolt back. Kris starts speeding along, reaching in the back seat to for a black bag that he deposits in Luhan’s lap. “Check the gate number on the ticket.”
Luhan fumbles around until he pulls out the white slip. “Why the fuck are we going to Korea?”
“Not ‘we’, you are.” Kris is nearing the grey sign on the outskirts and soon it’ll be too late for Luhan to end whatever mad escapade this is. He reaches over and yanks the wheel hard, car swerving to the right as Kris yells and struggles to maintain control, car spinning before he manages to brake. He turns to Luhan, eyes flashing. “Are you fucking insane?”
“Insane? I’m not the one who fucking shows up after three years and announces impromptu trips to other countries.” Luhan shoves Kris back, reaching for his belt buckle. “Either explain right now or I’m getting out.”
Kris suddenly smiles, although it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “So, you do have some fight left in you, still.”
Luhan stops, frowning at the elder. “What do you mean?”
“Sehun called me.” Kris starts the car up again but doesn’t move, the low thrumming of the engine in the background. “He told me. About the drinking and the yelling. God, Luhan, the kid was sobbing, he thought you were suicidal.”
Luhan’s chest lurches. “I wasn’t—I would never have—”
Kris interrupts. “And I knew then that if I didn’t come get you now, that they’d manage to break you down until you wouldn’t have the will to fight anymore. So here I am.” He pulls them onto the road. “And I’ve been with Yixing these past three months and he isn’t much better.”
Luhan starts at the sound of the name, hands gripping onto Kris’ sleeve. “Yixing?” he begs, starved for any bit of news he can get on the man he’s tried to avoid thinking about for so long.
Kris nods. “Same symptoms. Drinking, crying, working himself half to death. I don’t know how many time he tried to come see you but we had to stop him. Knew Dad would get him in legal trouble or worse if he saw him near you. Our plan was to bust you out once your birthday came and bring you to my place until you guys could leave for another city. But Yixing—he got a job offer in Korea and he took it without telling any of us. Said he thought it’d be best for you if he were gone.”
Luhan swallows, letting go of his sleeve. “Maybe he’s right.” He slumps against the seat, fighting back the telltale tightness in his throat.
“Bullshit. He’s miserable and you’re no better.” Kris takes Luhan’s hand in his own, the grip slightly awkward but the intent clear. “Look, Luhan, I know I haven’t been….a great brother. And it’s not my place to push advice on you but what you and Yixing have is the kind of love that—I don’t know, the kind the stars align for or some other Shakespearean bullshit. You make each other happy and you cover each other’s faults and if you can get through this, you’ll be untouchable. I know it. Yixing started the first escape plan for you knowing the risks but he did it because he wanted to be with you. Now it’s your turn.”
And he’s right, Luhan realises. All this time, it had been Yixing fighting for them and Luhan bobbing along, content to be led, but it’s time he sacrificed something, gave as much as he’s received from the other and if that entails this—this madness of flying to another country to hunt him down, then that’s what it is. He wipes at his eyes before nodding. “Okay.” He sees the other smile and start the car.
The drive this time is faster, Kris breaking several speeding laws as he gets them to the airport by late evening. Luhan makes check in, passport clutched in white-knuckled fingers with a small backpack slung over his shoulder—all items having been packed and snuck out by one Oh Sehun, of course. Luhan doesn't deserve him. He has a notebook in there, an address scrawled in Kris’ loopy handwriting and a sheaf of won notes. Other than that, he’s on his own with nothing but blind faith guiding him as he boards the plane and waits.
It’s a short trip and before he knows it, he’s standing on a street outside another airport, staring wide-eyed at the signs around him in a tongue completely foreign to him. He wanders around until he finds a taxi stand, where a kindly old driver manages to decipher his blurted syllables and starts driving him to the destination scrawled on the paper. He stares at the passing buildings, not really taking in any of it, mind fixed on the potential reunion and those doubts crawl up again, poisonous whispers in his head of ’He doesn’t want you, he left you, chasing him down, pathetic.’ He hasn’t even allowed himself to consider the possibility of rejection. Yixing has to still love him. He has to.
They pull up outside a small apartment building and Luhan peels off one too many bills to pay the driver, bowling nervously before he enters. It’s a shabby old place with peeling plaster and mold-tinged walls and he feels an acute sense of déjà vu as he approaches the counter. The woman glares at him, his fumbling attempts to speak Korean learnt hastily on the plane, before silencing him with a raised hand. She pushes a piece of paper at him, a number scrawled on it. He bows and begins the trek up the stairs, heart beating so fast he can feel each thrum in his veins.
His knock on the door reveals a small pixie faced boy who frowns at him, saying something in Korean that Luhan doesn’t catch before gesturing for him to wait. And Luhan stands there, eyes screwed shut as he fervently prays to every deity he’s never believed in, that this is the right door.
He hears a soft greeting before there’s a gasp and then silence and he knows, he fucking knows, it’s him, eyes fluttering open to see Yixing staring back at him, face pale and eyes wide in shock. Luhan wants to throw himself into his arms, meld them together until they’re one entity, LuhanandYixing, molded together as they should be. But he doesn’t. He doesn’t move as Yixing gasps out his name, doesn’t move when the other raises a trembling hand to brush across his face, doesn’t move when Yixing’s roommate calls out to him. It’s only when Yixing starts to cry, face buried in his collarbone as his body shakes with sobs too harsh for someone so frail, that Luhan moves to pull him closer, lips pressing into his hair as he murmurs over and over, “I’m here, Xing, I’m here now.”
There is a story Luhan’s mother used to tell him as a child, about how the gods used to conspire amongst themselves to play tricks on humans. They came up with a scheme for two lovers to be born under the same aligned stars, a match made in heaven in the most literal sense. Two people who were each other’s complete halves, in a love that was pure and unbreakable.
“But the gods played tricks, Luhan.” His mother’s voice is soft as she narrates, hands soothing through his hair. “They wanted those lovers to suffer and go through hardship before they could find each other. So many of them got so close but were thwarted. Romeo and Juliet, Laila and Majnun, Shanbo and Yingtai—every generation has a pair that were said to be those legends.”
Luhan frowns, eyes drooping. “But if you have to go through bad stuff, what’s the point in being the star-crossed person?” He shifts so his mother’s hand is on his chest. “It sounds unlucky.”
His mother laughs, sound echoing in the small room.
“But you see, Luhan, those lovers, in the time they did have to love—it was so much more than any of us will ever get to feel. The kind of true happiness that humans dream about and try to fight towards and it’s a love so strong it makes them immortal.” She flicks off the nightlight and pulls the covers over him, leaning down to press a kiss to his forehead.
“That’s what makes them the lucky ones.”