rating: nc-16 for sexual references
word count: 5,166
summary: after their breakup, myungsoo suffers from hallucinations and sungjong works as a prostitute in seoul's red-light district, hoping that sleeping with different men would help him forget about myungsoo. fate decides to play its cards well, and the two boys meet in the most unexpected place. they have grown awkward, but perhaps they might reconsider re-starting their once painful relationship.
마지막 그 모습도 서서히 기억 속에만 잠겨져 가는 것만 같아
Even the last images of you seem to slowly sink into memories
Forever, myungsoo remembers promising sungjong. I’ll protect you forever. he wonders why he ever said that, when forever basically means an eternity, and to love someone infinitely is not something you can promise. neither of them knew any better back then; all they knew were each other and how they felt, and everything felt just right. sungjong listened to all that myungsoo said, nodding whenever myungsoo made empty promises like those. please protect me forever, he would think to himself, while wrapping his arms tightly around myungsoo’s lean frame. don’t leave me.
myungsoo hates the monster in him, the disgusting creature that made him believe he would have the capacity to love someone for that long. he should have known that love is not forever, that nothing really lasts forever. forever was simply nothing more than a concept, one of those far-fetched theories that don’t mean anything in real life since it cannot be achieved. myungsoo should have known, really, that affection for someone else would never have lasted longer than a lifetime. case in point - his parents split after two years of marriage, didn’t they? till death do us part obviously meant little in their relationship, even after they supposedly loved each other enough to get married. what about him and sungjong then? perhaps it was nothing more than a teenage crush, something you would like to be placed at the deep, dark corners of your mind; the dusty nooks where the memories you wished you never had were hidden.
the older boy’s days are now lived in a mixture of regret, anger at his own stupidity, and a slight burning hatred at sungjong for being naive enough to believe his words that held no weight at all. above all, though, myungsoo’s days are lived out in a tense confusion that seems to course through his nerves, pricking him ever so slightly when his mind starts to think back to the times he spent with sungjong. certain days he would sit indian style in the middle of his room, and detach himself from reality. it’s much simpler than it sounds - all you have to do is create a separate self, one that doesn’t experience the same kind of pain as your real self does, and slip into that being. all emotion is cut off, and though time continues ticking, you grow none the wiser. you’re alive, still breathing, but nothing has the ability to hurt you emotionally anymore. you’re there, but not there. you’re pretty much a living corpse.
sometimes when myungsoo detaches himself, the curtains in his bedroom would shift in ways that were the furthest thing from normal. he would hear weird creaks escaping from his wardrobe, or hear something drop on the bathroom floor. he dismissed these occurrences at first, blaming the strong gusts of autumn wind that blew in through the wide open windows. as time passed, such things happened less frequently, but one day he hears glass break in the bathroom, and he walks over with heavy steps to investigate.
in the bathroom stood a cracked mirror, with bits of fallen glass threatening whoever walked in. myungsoo starts to curse under his breath about having to clean up the mess, but as he opens the door a little wider, he notices a figure hunched over the toilet seat. little whimpers escape from that limp frame, and myungsoo can’t help but let out a little gasp when he realises who it is.
he walks over and slowly pushes the boy’s hanging fringe behind his ears. he wants to say something, anything to fill up the silence. he notices the blood dripping on the ground, thick red goblets of fresh sanguine fluid staining the white bathroom tiles. the strong stench of rusty iron from the haemoglobin starts to fill the room, and myungsoo places a finger beneath his nose to block the fetor from entering his system. he looks over at the cracked mirror again, noticing for the first time that it had been broken exactly in the middle, with accurate precision. then he looks back at those fingers, the ones that he had always remembered to be so gentle and fragile, the same fingers that would intertwine with his whenever they held hands in the dark. he can’t look at them the same way anymore - these hands were now full of wrath and fury powerful enough to break things upon contact. he stared at the boy in a strange way, with a faraway gaze as if he was looking at an exhibit in the museum for the first time. he looks familiar, but feels like a whole other person.
“sungjong?” myungsoo treads cautiously, worried that if he says something wrong or says a little too much, this whole scene would disappear like smoke into the sky, and he’d be left with nothing more than a broken mirror, blood on the floor, and a heart that felt it was dying a little more each day. he blinks, waiting for a reply, and the figure is gone.
myungsoo blinks again, and this time he notices a huge gash in his hand, near his knuckles which have turned bloodshot. all he can do is stare at his hand, wondering whether those hands really belonged to him. he glances at the toilet seat again, and the floor there still remains covered with blood stains that are starting to turn a slightly darker brown. the confusion comes rushing to him now, the strong barrier he had placed between his real and detached self crumbling to nothing in mere seconds, and he can’t take it. he never could, and his detachment was a way to escape from reality.
추억의 그림자에 촉촉한 내 눈물만 그 자릴 지켜보고 있어
The wet tears of mine of the shadows of the past are the only ones gazing at that place
sungjong was the younger one in the relationship, younger than myungsoo by two years. two years seemed like a lot of time, but when they were together, the age difference didn’t matter. he misses the times he would sneak into myungsoo’s bedroom in the dead of the night, whenever he needed someone to talk to. myungsoo never turned him away, even when he was woken from deep slumber and had a test the next morning. sungjong would lie next to myungsoo on his bed, as if there was a place reserved just for him there. he would release all his troubles, and though he sometimes felt like he was being a huge burden to myungsoo, the older boy never minded.
“your worries, they disappear into the sky, did you know that?” myungsoo had said once, when sungjong started tearing from the stress of his problems. “when you talk about them, they float up into the sky, and burst to form stars.” sungjong knew myungsoo was just trying to make him feel better, but for some reason it actually worked. “do you see the thousands, millions of stars in the sky? those are all worries. people load their worries into the sky so that they become out of reach, and no longer have to weigh us down. those worries no longer become ours, but something too far away to affect us.” myungsoo wipes a finger across sungjong’s cheek, where tears had created tracks as they raced down the sides of his face.
sungjong had so many questions on his mind - if everyone loaded their worries into the sky, wouldn’t the sky get too heavy one day, and all the worries come crashing down on us? wouldn’t they hurt more then, since you would feel the collective pain from all the worries in the world? wasn’t it selfish of people to think they could just load worries into the sky forever, and hope that if and when the sky crashes, it won’t be in their lifetime? but sungjong kept these thoughts to himself. instead, he snuggled a little closer to myungsoo, who, in the span of sungjong being deep in thought, and went back to sleep. sungjong placed his head against myungsoo, and fell asleep to the rhythmical rising and falling of his chest.
후회해도 늦어버려 볼 수 없어
even if there is regret, you can’t see it. it’s too late.
“sungjong!” an ahjumma shrieks above the noisy techno music being played, gesturing wildly for him to come over to her. he notices her (how could he not), and scurries over quickly. “yes?” he answers, widening his eyes to make him look innocent. she glares at him, fierce enough to bore holes through his head. “wipe that sickening puppy dog look off your face right now! how many times do i need to remind you that looking innocent doesn’t go with our line of work at all?” sungjong shrugs, and waits for her to continue.
“you have a customer waiting for you in the lion’s den. he’s paying twice the usual amount and asked specially for your services.” (* “lion’s den” being the name of one of the rooms in the club)
“he asked specially for me?”
“yes, your name’s getting rather popular with the middle aged crowd. those dirty old businessmen have nothing better to do than to trick their wives and say that they’re going for business trips, then come to our kind of place to have sex. it’s good business though.” the ahjumma turns to smile at two men who just entered the club. one of them looked lost and was blushing so intently, anyone could have told that his cheeks were on fire even under the bright glare of the disco lights. he didn’t dare smile back at the ahjumma, instead sticking as close to his male counterpart as he could. must be his first time, poor thing, thought sungjong.
“the guy’s an out of towner, speaks with a strong accent - i think he’s from the jeolla-do area. he’s drunk now, a little passed out from having one too many drinks at the counter. looks around his mid-thirties, decent looking.” sungjong doesn’t even try to register this information in his head, because he was in this business for the easy money. for every man he slept with, he could easily earn 100 000 won. he came to work four days a week, and the money he made in a single session was enough to cover his living expenses for weeks.
sungjong goes to the washroom to refresh himself first, and covers his lips with a thin film of lip gloss, just in case some mouth action went down later. the folks that came to such clubs were usually the extremely dirty sort, and they sometimes went a little too far than what sungjong was used to. but he never stopped them, just continued letting them take advantage of his body.
sungjong could feel the weight of the customer’s body on his, the friction from their skin-on-skin contact driving the customer wild. sungjong, instead, was just going through the motions, doing the standard motions that customers enjoyed. he had served enough people to know the kinds of things that would get them to ask for him again, and whenever someone asked specially for him, he would usually get higher tips.
most people in the club he worked at thought he chose to sell his body only to get money. they thought he was a poor college student with no money to pay his tuition fees, and coming to work at such a shady place was his last resort at earning money. they believed sungjong because he had no good reason to lie to them. people here didn’t care about the backgrounds and histories of acquaintances - they came to such a place with a specific purpose in mind, and as long as they got what they wanted, they never had to see any of the prostitutes (sungjong would rather be referred to as a service provider, as much as that made him sound like some salesman that goes door-to-door selling his product) again.
what they didn’t know, and what sungjong would never want to admit, was that he was in it because of myungsoo. every time he thinks back to when they had sex together, he feels like his body is being ripped from the inside. the first time he did it was with myungsoo, and they were both a little awkward, but with a little gentle guidance from his hyung he got the hang of it rather quickly. from that point on, they would have sex occasionally in sungjong’s college dorm since his room mate was always out partying and only came back at five in the morning. sungjong loved those times. not because they were sensual experiences, but because the way myungsoo treated him while they were having sex was like he was a precious jewel, something that didn’t deserve to be hurt. myungsoo’s actions, though firm and deliberate, were also careful and considerate. he always made sure what he was doing didn’t hurt sungjong - if he wasn’t sure, he would give sungjong a curious yet worried look; are you still surviving? his face would read. sometimes sungjong nodded, other times he didn’t give a proper response. myungsoo would proceed, and as painful as it got for them sometimes, sungjong loved the pleasure he felt, like fireworks bursting inside him.
but that was then, and this is now. sungjong wanted so much to forget about myungsoo, to rid his body of the pleasure he received from sex with the boy he had loved. nothing lasted forever, and as much as sungjong wanted to be with myungsoo in the past, he poured all his energy now into forgetting him. he hadn’t meant to be a prostitute at first, but after seeing a sign put up in the front of a sleazy looking bar in seoul’s redlight district, everything just clicked. sungjong started out apprehensive and unwilling, but he found that the more men he slept with, the quicker he forgot about his memories with myungsoo.
he hated it at first, how these men were hurting him physically. they never gave him the same sense of pleasure as myungsoo did. after the first few sessions, sungjong would just return to his dorm embarrassed, crying. why did he have to resort to doing this to myungsoo? surely there were more self-respecting ways to get over his past? sungjong tried to convince himself that he was doing the right thing, because he was strong enough and had the will to stick with something until it saw the light of day. he wasn’t about to stop until he had forgotten every little detail about the boy he had loved - the way his long eyelashes would flutter when he woke up, the way he looked when he smiled, the way he would backhug sungjong whenever he felt lonely.
sungjong could serve his “customers” with ease now. he put on faces in front of them, acted like he really looked forward to spending the night with them in their lavish hotel rooms, on their beds or on the ground or against the wall (and occasionally in shower stalls or on tables). he moaned whenever he felt the time was right, to give a sort of satisfaction to his customers. but this was all a lie; all sungjong felt was a certain numbness. he didn’t feel any pain or sadness or hatred or lust when he carried out his sex sessions; all he knew was to detach himself from reality and go with the flow.
just like myungsoo did.
끝없는 길을 따라 널 찾아 헤메이다
following the road with no end, as i wander to find you
myungsoo decides to head out for a drink one night, because he simply cannot stay cooped up at home any longer. it’s been a few months since college ended for him, and yet myungsoo hadn’t gotten a job yet. sometimes his family would bring up the topic of job searching during dinner, but myungsoo would keep quiet and not contribute to the conversation. there was once his uncle, who works as an army general, suggested that myungsoo enlist early since he didn’t seem to have better things to do in life. myungsoo had given him a slight nod and said he would consider it. that conversation was weeks ago, and until now myungsoo still had no hold on his life. all he knew were his conflicting emotions, the ones that told him he needed sungjong and that his life was meaningless without him, versus those that told him to forgot about the useless being that was called lee sungjong.
it was the night myungsoo found the cracked mirror, that he realised he needed to clear his head. hallucinations were not something he wanted to experience again. he knew he was confused, but he didn’t want to be classified as mental too. he had rarely left the house for weeks, only to get groceries from the convenience store down the street, or to send his younger brother off to school. he left a note for his parents saying he went out for a walk, before grabbing his house keys and heading straight for the red-light district.
he does not know what exactly he wants to get out of going to such a place, perhaps the busy feeling of people still wide awake at night, wildly partying, as opposed to the dead corpses he faced at home that were asleep before midnight. as he walked down the dimly lit streets, scantily clad girls who wear little more than strips of cloth greeted him from outside different bars, all vying for his attention and patronage. he ignored them, and just kept walking while keeping his head focused on the gravel. one girl is a little more brave, and stops in front of him, putting her hands beneath his jaw, rubbing it sensually.
“hey mister, do you want to party with me tonight?”
myungsoo looks at the girl, scans her from head to toe. he wondered why people would sell themselves this way. for some reason, he suddenly wondered what sungjong was doing at this moment.
myungsoo pushes the girl’s hand away and continues walking, hands in his pockets to keep them from turning cold. the girl continues chasing him, putting her hands in places they shouldn’t be, but myungsoo brushes her off a few more times, before she finally gives up with a sigh and walks back to her bar in her high heels. myungsoo keeps walking until he sees a garish looking neon sign that sticks out of a building, promising good drinks and good music. sounds harmless enough, myungsoo thinks, as he slips in past the bouncer at the door who first checks whether he’s of age.
inside the club, myungsoo takes a seat at the end of the bar counter, and studies the shelf of drinks behind the bartender. he hadn’t been to a club in ages; the last time he came to one of these, it was together with sungjong, when they tried to be adventurous on one of their dates. the bartender catches him staring cluelessly at the drinks and comes to talk to him. “not sure what you want?” myungsoo glances at him, clearly in a daze. he shrugs, unsure what to say.
“do you want something heavy? alcohol perhaps? hmm, or maybe a fruit cocktail would do the trick?” the bartender waits for myungsoo’s answer, but seeing as he doesn’t get one, he tosses a few brightly colored liquids together, gives them a quick shake and spin, and pours it into a cocktail glass for myungsoo. “it’s our specialty drink,” he explains, but myungsoo just stares at the drink. “enjoy!” the bartender moves away to attend to another clubgoer.
myungsoo takes a sip of the drink, and finds it to be deliciously fruity. he takes another, because he realised his mouth has grown terribly dry on the way here, probably from the cold weather or from telling that girl on the street to stop following him around. he takes yet another sip, because for some reason he can’t control his senses now, the ones which tell him to just keep sipping because the drink is addictive and he needs to drink it. myungsoo continues sipping, sipping, sipping... until a weird sensation washes over his body, and he feels so lightheaded, it’s like a helium balloon floating freely in the sky. the disco lights above the dance floor make him a little more dizzy than they should, and he feels like the room is turning upside down. myungsoo just wants to get out of this weird place and crawl back into bed; he hates not knowing what’s happening and losing control of his senses. he stands up from his stool but nearly stumbles to the ground.
in his daze, myungsoo stumbles across an empty room with lights on. he peeks in through the small window in the door, and realises that there’s no one there, and no handbags or wallets or anything. he looks around first to make sure no one was going to use the room, then limps in unsteadily, falling onto the couch nearby. he clutches his stomach in agony, wondering what’s happening with his stomach fluid and his distensible stomach and the food he consumed. he places his head on the cushion (the stuffing was spilling out of a broken seam) and closes his heavy eyelids. i’ll rest here for a few minutes and leave when my throbbing headache dissapears, myungsoo decides.
sungjong arrives at the bar a little past 9pm. he’d asked the ahjumma who was in charge of the “service providers” for permission to come report later for work today because he had a paper on biochemistry to finish, and he if didn’t intend on failing college he needed to hand in a semi-decent piece of work in order to pass. sungjong barely has enough time to drop his sling bag in his personal locker (which doesn’t even lock properly so it was just a useless piece of junk) before the same ahjumma comes rushing over to him. she has on a traditional hanbok tonight, which some of the female prostitutes wore when attending to their customers. they’d slowly undress themselves to rouse their male customers, and made more money when customers asked for them to put on these kinds of acts. sungjong didn’t really mix with the others here, but from what he knew the girls here were doing it for fun, because they actually enjoyed sleeping with men. as sleazy as that made them sound, sungjong couldn’t blame them, because he wasn’t that different himself.
the ahjumma tells him that a customer’s passed out in the waiting room, and that he probably had one too many drinks while waiting for someone to serve him.
“he didn’t even come to me to look for one of you. he must be a new customer,” the ahjumma tsks and shakes her head. sungjong lets out a little laugh, finding it funny that new customers could be so clueless about these kinds of things.
as sungjong walks over to the waiting room, he starts to hum a tune to himself. he doesn’t remember what tune it is, but it’s extremely catchy and has an infectious melody. sungjong opens the door, and finds a man lying face down, hand flopped over the side of the sofa. sungjong takes the opportunity to neaten his hair, though customers never minded since they knew his hair was of no importance at the end of the day. he sits himself on the chair next to the couch, and tries to turn the body over, before the customer dies from lack of oxygen. he struggles, because the customer’s frame is larger than his own, but finally manages to flip him over somewhat.
then the painful memories come flooding back, one by one.
또 다시 사랑해 주겠니
Will you love me once more?
sungjong feels paralyzed, like this fear just gripped his bones and didn’t allow them to move; like some haunted force wraps itself around his muscles and squeezes them so hard he can actually feel physical pain. there’s a sort of coldness that runs through his nervous system. he wants so much to pretend he has a headache or stomachache or a sprained ankle, just to leave. he never thought about what would happen if they met again, because once forever ended, he thought it would end for an eternity. no more seeing each other, no more what ifs, no more anything; everything between them would cease to exist.
myungsoo stirs a little, turning to face the back of the couch. sungjong holds his breath, worried about what would happen if myungsoo realised that sungjong was sitting next to him. sungjong knew he could just sneak out of the club without anyone knowing and leave myungsoo here till he recovered from his hangover, but his legs just wouldn’t move. his brain told him to make a run for it, but his heart just weighed him down and didn’t allow him to move without a guilty conscience. sungjong hits his own forehead, wondering why he was always confronted with some troublesome matters. after his breakup with myungsoo, he had managed to live a life relatively free of emotions and pain, whether physical or emotional. he’d detach himself whenever he needed to, and this was one of those times where he needed to slip into his separate self. the pain was pricking him quick, like a million rose thorns suddenly attacking him from inside his body.
he doesn’t know what makes him do it, but sungjong leaves to ask the bartender for a glass of water for myungsoo. the bartender nods at him knowingly, thinking that the nervous customer needed a glass of water to calm himself down before his first sexual experience of this kind. sungjong says nothing, just shoots him a brief smile before carefully bringing the glass of water back to the room.
the glass of water was slightly hot to the touch. sungjong took the care of blowing the at the water, hoping it would cool down soon. he knew water at room temperature was the best for recovering from hangovers, but if myungsoo didn’t wake up soon, the water might get a little colder than it should. sungjong was in no hurry to wake him, however.
something inside sungjong tells him to stay with myungsoo until he wakes up. he fiddles with his fingers while he waits, choosing to focus on something insignificant like his fingers rather than what would happen when myungsoo wakes up and realises that sungjong had turned into a filthy prostitute. he feels shame, an emotion he never felt before. lee sungjong had always been the bright and cheerful lee sungjong, but he had suddenly grown to become the dark and mysterious lee sungjong.
myungsoo coughs, and his eyelids start to flutter open. sungjong remembers when myungsoo would wake up after one of their nights spent together, and sungjong would kiss his eyelids because they were so beautiful, because he was so beautiful. myungsoo starts to close his eyes again, before he realises what stands before him and he struggles to sit upright. sungjong squirms in his seat. he quickly reaches out for the glass of water on the table, and hands it over to myungsoo. “here, drink this.”
myungsoo remains bug-eyed, never once taking his eyes off sungjong. he tells himself that this is another one of his hallucinations, that it’s all a huge joke his mind was playing on himself. he takes the glass and sips it cautiously. sungjong cannot meet his eyes, and looks down at this feet, bangs covering his eyes.
it takes a while for myungsoo to piece together the parts of this puzzle. he was in a room with garish green walls, the kind that had wallpaper on many years ago but had been stripped of it unprofessionally. he was sitting on a leather couch with many cracks near his buttcheek, worn from decades of use. before him was a table, the kind found in karaoke lounges. in his hand was a glass of warm water, passed to him by the person sitting next to him. sungjong. myungsoo checks his watch for the time, and the digital digits read “23:48”. it takes him a little longer, but myungsoo thinks of something to say.
“do you work here?”
they both remain silent. myungsoo didn’t know how to face sungjong if he did work in such a place, the exact kind of place where people came to do no good. sungjong feels his cheeks burning up, and his mouth opens slightly, wanting to make excuses to make his job sound less terrible in myungsoo’s eyes than it was, but he didn’t.
“how did you know i was here?”
sungjong’s muscles tense, and he replies, albeit rather softly, “i didn’t.”
his response sends another wave of awkwardness rocketing between them. myungsoo takes a last sip of water before setting the glass down on the table. he looks over at sungjong and realises he was dressed in tight jeans and a well fitting shirt. he still retained his thin frame, hadn’t turned into muscleman overnight. they don’t say anything for another eternity or so, before sungjong excuses himself to leave for the washroom. “to freshen up,” he says, but myungsoo knows that he means “to put my thoughts together and figure out what the fuck i am supposed to say to the boy i used to love and would have died for in a second, except now i’m not so sure”.
when sungjong leaves, myungsoo still can’t believe that this isn’t a hallucination. he decides to make the best of this opportunity, grab the chance when fate practically thrust sungjong in front of him. he searches his pockets for a pen, and finds a marker that had lost its cap. myungsoo put the thoughts of needing to send the pair of pants he was wearing to the dry cleaners to get the huge ink stains off at the back of his mind, and wiped the droplets of water condensing on the glass away. he thought of what he would say, something to tell sungjong how he felt and what he wanted to do.
when sungjong returned minutes later, all he was greeted with was a glass on the table. on the glass, in scribbly handwriting, the message read:
“let’s start over. this time, forever.”
( for infinity ∞)
a/n: lyrics from in heaven - JYJ. translations from withjyj.wordpress.com.