VII

superstar

The meeting was tedious, at least for Jiyong, who had heard this same talk a million times before. Minho, however, was all ears, eyes wide, nodding along to everything Seunghyun had to say. Jiyong couldn’t blame him, it would be his first time doing photoshoots, filming music videos, doing promotions… He was probably excited. And anxious, judging by the intensity with which he fidgeted with the zipper of his jacket.

It was kind of cute, really. Minho’s energy was the only refreshing part of the meeting.

And just when Jiyong is about to leave, glad that it’s all over, Seunghyun calls him back.

Jiyong stands in the doorway, taking a deep breath. Then he goes back inside, closing the door behind himself.

He doesn’t sit down, indicating that he wants this to be done quickly. “Yes?”

Seunghyun sits in his chair, observing Jiyong in a way that makes him want to disappear. Then, at last, he carefully says, “How are you doing?”

Jiyong blinks. “Splendid.”

“I’m serious, Jiyong. How’s your recovery going?”

There’s a stabbing sensation in Jiyong’s gut. He swallows. “Good. It’s going well. Why do you ask?”

Seunghyun places his palms flat on the table. “Because,” he speaks slowly. It’s driving Jiyong insane. “I’m worried that all of this might be too much for you.”

Jiyong stares at him. “Don’t say that. Not you.”

“I have to be careful. You know what happened the last time I pushed you…”

Jiyong shakes his head. “It’s not—It won’t be like that. I’m fine, Seunghyun—I promise. We’re doing this together.”

Seunghyun nods, holding Jiyong’s gaze. Jiyong caves and looks away.

“If it gets too much, tell me. If you need time or a break, tell me. Please.”

Jiyong nods.

“Promise me,” Seunghyun presses.

Jiyong meets his gaze. “I promise.”

Seunghyun exhales and leans back in his chair. He seems satisfied enough.

 

Jiyong expected Minho to be gone by the time he got out of Seunghyun’s office, but he’s still down in the parking lot when Jiyong gets out of the elevator.

Minho is standing by the car with the door open, but his friend is stopping him from getting in, holding his arm. They are discussing hastily.

As he approaches, Jiyong catches the last bit of Minho's sentence,

“... it would be stupid.”

Just as Minho says this, Jiyong unlocks his own car. The sound startles the two, as well as announcing Jiyong’s presence to them.

They whip their heads around, fix their wide eyes on Jiyong.

“What would be stupid?” he asks, raising his eyebrows.

Instead of responding, Minho and his friend—Jihoon, was it?—exchange looks. They proceed to look at each other, exchanging a series of subtle facial expressions. Are they communicating? Jiyong isn't quite sure.

This exchange ends with Jihoon nudging Minho forward, him stumbling towards Jiyong with an exasperated huff.

Minho lifts his gaze to Jiyong only briefly, before he looks away again. “A bunch of us are hanging out this weekend… my friends have been trying to convince me to invite you, but…”

“But?” Jiyong puts his hands in his pockets and tilts his head.

Minho begins to fumble with the zipper of his jacket. He twists his lip ring with his tongue before speaking, “But… I didn't think you'd want to come along—I mean, you must be really busy and—I wouldn't want it to be a bother, you know?”

Jiyong's smile grows as Minho rambles, and perhaps the younger misunderstands it as mockery. He stops talking and bites down on his lip ring so hard the hole stretches.

“It wouldn't be stupid,” Jiyong says, and he does his very best not to sound like he's teasing, “I'd love to come along, just tell me where to be.”

For a moment Minho seems to be evaluating, trying to understand if Jiyong is messing with them. Jihoon doesn't have this problem. He's smiling a big, heart-shaped smile, bouncing a little where he stands.

But neither of them is giving Jiyong any information so he says, “Text me,” before waving and going over to his Lamborghini.

He wants to leave it at that, but he can’t help staying behind. He can’t help looking at the rearview mirror, catching a glimpse of Minho and Jihoon high fiving each other before hopping into their own car.

* * *

Hanging out with college students, Jiyong can only assume there will be alcohol, perhaps even a blunt. Usually he wouldn’t turn alcohol down, not weed either, but he isn’t all that crazy about the street setting that he can expect from this kind of outing. He dislikes the thought of himself being unconscious or otherwise unaware out in the open like that.

Ever since Hong Kong every one of Jiyong’s outings has ended badly. Personally, Jiyong doesn’t care. For the longest time he hasn’t been all too concerned with his personal wellbeing, however it’s the thought of being seen that makes his stomach flip.

It’s the memory of Minho kneeling by his limp body in the bathroom and an expression that Jiyong can’t remember, it’s the very fact that he can’t remember most of that night, and many other nights, that makes his blood run cold.

And despite this, Jiyong takes a taxi. The excuse he chooses to put forward in his mind is that he doesn’t want to make the kids feel bad by flaunting his Lambo at such a casual hangout.

Making his approach, Jiyong squints at the group of five, trying to make out faces. He spots the blonde immediately and finds himself relaxing. Soon Minho notices Jiyong as well, smiling when he does.

He meets Jiyong halfway and stops. He drops his gaze, unsure what to do. Impatient to end this horribly awkward moment, Jiyong goes in for a quick half-hug.

They make their approach to the group together.

Minho takes a deep, bracing breath. “Everyone,” he calls for their attention, as if they weren’t already poorly hiding the fact that they’ve been looking the entire time. “This is Kwon Jiyong. Jiyong, this is Jihoon, Seungyoon, Jisoo and you’ve met Jiho.”

“Have I?” Jiyong blurts out, looking at the young man with a dirty blonde mullet and a beanie.

“Yeah, remember at the diner, after I…” Minho trails off.

The diner. The diner he was taken to after he had passed out in the bathroom. The diner that Minho took him to. That diner. That friend, the person Miho was with. Jiyong remembers now, and he can no longer hold Jiho’s gaze.

“Oh… That’s right.”

The rest of the group says ‘hi’s of their own. Jiyong’s gaze doesn’t linger on any one of them. He gives a tiny wave, not making any effort to break the silence that ensues.

Minho is the one to take on this burden. “Right—let’s go get the drinks, okay? And we gotta figure out where to go.”

The little group begins to move. The kids give in their suggestions, places like “the park behind the convenience store,” “the parking lot in my street” and so on.

Jiyong can’t even begin to guess which locations these are. His chest begins to tighten, he begins to regret having gone out at all.

He does his best to keep up with Minho. In a crazed moment, Jiyong thinks of clinging onto his sleeve as to not fall behind. He shoves his hands deep in his pockets while waiting for the thought to pass.

The group comes to a halt in front of a tiny convenience store. The blonde one, with pouty lips whose name Jiyong is pretty sure is Seungyoon and Minho start taking everyone’s orders. Beers, sojus, some snacks, cigarettes. Everyone gives money to the two. A wave of panic and sudden social dysfunction compels Jiyong to mutter that he doesn’t want anything. Minho gives him a look, but brushes it off and goes in with Seungyoon.

Jiyong stares after the two, the tightness in his chest spreading onto his throat. Without thinking, he steps in as well. He does want a drink, and he’s pretty sure his pack is halfway done, it won’t last through the night.

He sighs a breath of relief when he sees Minho and catches up to him.

“Oh hey,” he says with that bright smile of his. “I thought you didn’t want anything.”

“I changed my mind.”

Jiyong walks over slowly to where Seungyoon is picking out soju after soju, and he can’t help but notice that he’s picking the cheapest ones.

“This one’s better,” Jiyong says, tapping a bottle. The difference in prices is hardly noticeable.

Seungyoon’s shoulders tense, shrinking. “They won’t mind. We always drink this,” he says.

Jiyong watches him for a second longer, then says, “Take the other ones. Trust me.”

Seungyoon blinks. “But—”

Jiyong smiles. “Trust me.”

Hesitantly, Seungyoon complies.

At the cashier, Jiyong whips out his credit card, stepping in front of Minho and Seungyoon. However it is Minho’s displeased sigh that compels Jiyong to pay for the soju only. After they’re done, Jiyong gives Minho a quick explanation,

“I asked for the more expensive ones.”

Minho keeps frowning at him for a second longer before he sighs again and shrugs. “Sure… Thanks.”

Bags in hands, the three join the rest of the group and they start to move through the streets.

Jiyong has no idea where they’re going. Instead of that, he focuses on observing the gray buildings around him, the chipped paint and the graffiti.

“We’ve decided to go to the lot that overlooks the river,” Jisoo informs.

Minho smiles, a bounce appearing in his step. He turns to Jiyong with a bright smile.

“That’s my—it’s my favourite spot. It has a wonderful view of the other side. I’m glad we’re going there tonight.”

The corner of Jiyong’s lips tugs up at seeing Minho so excited. More than anything, Jiyong is happy that the younger is no longer frowning disapprovingly at him.

Jiyong mostly observes and listens to conversations on their way to the subway stop. The entire group consists of students of Korea National University of Arts, save for Jiyong. With slight variations in courses, their biggest conversational topic is school. It isn’t something Jiyong can participate in, not to mention he gets stressed just listening to them.

On the train, standing next to Minho, Jiyong says,

“I couldn’t imagine going back to college. My career started then too, like yours.” He shakes his head. “How do you survive?”

Minho laughs, but Jiyong notices a tone of irony in the sound. “No sleep and liters of coffee.”

Jiyong blinks. “That can’t be healthy.”

He knows it was a joke. He also knows that KNUA is one of the most demanding colleges in Seoul. He knows that juggling success in that school, as well as trying to kickstart a career, all while having a social life is terribly exhausting.

He’s been there. And he remembers how he started taking benzos “just to relax” while his career was picking up steam at the age of 20.

Yet Minho only shrugs. “We all get by.”

Jiyong doesn’t respond. It isn’t the time for a lecture, or for worrying. He averts his gaze.

He spots Jihoon and Jiho fighting for a seat that just got freed near them. Jiho is the one to place his on the chair, grinning victoriously at Jihoon. Jihoon crosses his arms and pouts. Then, much to Jiyong’s surprise, Jiho opens his arms and Jihoon happily sits on his lap. Jiho rests his head on Jihoon’s back. This makes Jiyong smile. The two spend the rest of the ride that way.

On their way, Jiyong mostly stays out of conversations, only listening, just like before. He thinks it’s alright, having only met the people and all. But soon he’s pulled into a conversation when Jiho addresses him,

“So… What’s it like to be on stage?”

Jiyong needs a second to think of a response. “…Thrilling. Terrifying. If you ask me, the real craziness goes on behind the scenes.”

“It must be really fun,” says Jisoo with a little smile on her face.

Jiyong chuckles. “Stressful is the word I would use. But yeah… fun too. Fascinating also. All those people working their butts off to put together a show where you’ll be the star… I’m grateful to everyone who’s ever worked with me on a show. But that’s a lot of people…. I couldn’t possibly give back enough.”

When Jiyong looks at the others, he’s met with little smiles and sparkling eyes. Is this the effect his words had on them? It’s… slightly confusing, but he decides to roll with it. He smiles back.

Jihoon then chimes in, “Tell us about your project! Minho won’t tell us anything about working with you.”

Minho sighs and when Jiyong steals a glance at him, he sees that Minho is pouting the way he does when he’s upset. “I told you already, it’s to protect his privacy…”

He doesn’t know why, but this makes Jiyong smile. “Well, now you have my blessing. You still won’t be getting any spoilers though,” he tells Minho’s friends.

They give noises of protest, but Jiyong only shrugs, sticking by his decision.

Then they turn their attention to Minho, who still hasn’t given his response.

“Well what’s there to say?” Minho says. “You’re brilliant, we all know it.”

“You seriously don’t have any details?” Seungyoon asks in disbelief.

“He’s not telling you about his own progress,” Jiyong chimes in, smiling softly. “He’s wonderful, really gets into the music once he loosens up. He’ll be great on stage.”

Minho’s gaze snaps up at Jiyong. “You think so?”

Jiyong nods, he even reaches out to pat Minho on the back. The younger only smiles, averting his gaze.

“We’ve still got time, don’t worry. We’ll practice a lot as well.”

“You will be great,” Jihoon says and Jiyong recognizes sparkling pride in his voice. “We all know it.”

“Only thanks to Jiyong,” Minho says. “He’s really helped me feel comfortable in my skills.”

“You’re too humble.”

There’s movement to Jiyong’s right and he realizes too late that Seungyoon has, jokingly, nudged Minho just a bit too hard. He trips, and to prevent him from falling over, Jiyong takes Minho by the arm. Minho holds onto the front of Jiyong’s shirt.

“Sorry,” he mutters, and quickly detaches himself from Minho.

Jiyong tries to ignore the fact that the rest of the group has stopped walking in order to observe. Jiyong, the very least, is used to having eyes on him.

But Minho isn’t. And it seems that the attention is making his cheeks crimson.

 

Climbing up a set of stairs, the little group emerges onto an elevated parking lot. Underneath, boat restaurants line the shore of the river Han. The opposite bank looks stunning from the spot, with its glistening lights in the dark.

“Welcome to our hangout,” Minho announces, standing next to Jiyong.

He breathes in the cool air and smiles. “I like it here.”

When they turn around, they see that their group has sat down in a circle. Jiho is fumbling with something in his lap, and when Jiyong approaches, he realizes that he’s rolling a spliff.

A lot of ideas pop up in his mind. Offering help, perhaps. Or protesting. After all, he’s the adult here.

But he finds that to be hypocritical.

Jiyong decides, in the end, to let it play out without intervention.

Even though Jiyong is sitting a little outside of the circle, the spliff gets handed to him. Without thinking, he accepts it. It’s weak, but he doesn’t complain, who knows who these kids’ supplier is and how much money they have to spend. He started off that way as well, he understands.

He takes a drag and passes the spliff to the next person, Seungyoon. Then he lights himself a cigarette.

Instead of taking a drag, Seungyoon turns to Jisoo and she proceeds to attempt to shotgun him. Jiyong watches in utter amusement, Seungyoon failing to take a drag while she holds the spliff, and at last her beginning to laugh, thereby dropping it.

This nearly has devastating consequences, luckily Seungyoon manages to catch it, although burning himself a little in the process.

“There’s an easier way to do that, if you’re not skilled enough,” Jiyong chimes, with the corner of his lips quirked up.

“We’re trying to acquire the skills,” Jisoo explains as Seungyoon slumps over defeatedly, picking up a pebble and throwing it over the railing.

“You should do that when you have more weed to waste,” Jihoon says, wisely so.

“Nah, we’ve got enough,” Jiho says, and he seems to look sideways at Jihoon as if trying to communicate something to him, something that the rest of the group isn’t supposed to understand.

“Oh—oh yeah!” Jihoon turns to Jiyong and humbly says, “You should show us, you know, as an elder.”

Jiyong coughs, his eyes water and the nicotine burns his throat. “Please just call me Jiyong.” Once he’s done choking he directs his gaze towards Seungyoon. “I don’t know, I haven’t done it in a while. Besides, I prefer the easier method.”

He passes his cigarette to Minho. When he turns towards Seungyoon, Jiho chimes in, “You should do it to Minho.”

Jiyong raises his eyebrows. He looks at Minho, who has been silent thus far.

Caught off guard, he straightens up, looks around the circle and says, “No—I’m good.”

“Come on,” Jihoon now says, nudging him forward. “You said you’ve never had it done to you, won’t it be great for an expert to do it the first time?”

“Really, I’m good,” Minho insists, and Jiyong sees him and Jihoon doing that odd, wordless communication thing they did at the parking lot as well.

“I thought it was Seungyoon and Jisoo who were trying to learn,” Jiyong says, hoping to help Minho’s case a bit. Because as amusing as his flusteredness is, Jiyong doesn’t want Minho to do anything he doesn’t want to.

“Yeah, yeah, but they want to do it together. They could use a demonstration,” Jiho dismisses, taking Jiyong’s cigarette from Minho’s hands to free them.

And that’s how peer pressure puts them together. Jiyong finds it odd, how Minho’s friends can’t see just how tense he is—or are they simply choosing to ignore it? Maybe Jiyong is just getting old, his parent instinct kicking in with the worry that this anxiousness might escalate.

Jiyong turns towards Minho instead. He’s sitting cross legged with his fists on his knees and Jiyong decides that he’ll be the one to bridge the gap. He sits on his knees, opens his palm in order to be handed the spliff.

Minho breathes heavily. Jiyong can’t blame him. The entire group has their eyes on them, way too focused and expecting a spectacle.

“Hey,” Jiyong says. “Don’t look at them, look at me.”

Minho does. He holds his breath.

“All you have to do is inhale, there’s no way for you to mess this up.”

Minho’s smile is faint and nervous, and Jiyong gets closer yet.

“And we can always try again,” he adds. He doesn’t know how else to soothe Minho.

All Jiyong thinks about while he’s taking a drag is doing this quickly, anything to lessen Minho’s discomfort. He also thinks about that lip ring, wonders what it’ll feel like.

Jiyong presses his lips to Minho’s and blows smoke into Minho’s open mouth. He closes his eyes when they start to water. They break apart, and Minho still holds his breath, slowly exhaling through the nose, veily gray curling around him.

Jiyong scoots away slightly, back to his spot on the side. He doesn’t take his gaze off of Minho; Minho, who keeps his eyes closed, who fell back with his head ending up in Jiho’s lap, hands covering his face. Jiyong thinks, though he isn’t sure, that he sees Minho smiling underneath.

“You okay?” Jiyong asks, nudges Minho with his foot as if to check if he’s alive.

He doesn’t move at first. Then he nods, and nods again, and says, “A little dizzy.”

Jiyong retrieves his cigarette, fishes out his lighter because it has nearly gone out. “You’re welcome,” he says, with the cigarette between his teeth.

Only then does he think to look at the others. They’re stifling their laughter, huddled together around Jisoo, looking down at her phone.

“Did you take pictures?” Jiyong asks.

Jisoo’s gaze snaps up and everyone’s smile is wiped from their faces.

“I can delete them—”

Jiyong tries to suppress a smile, because he wants to scare the kids a little longer, but he fails. He exhales smoke their way. “Send them to me. But you better not post them anywhere, I’m serious. We’ll all be in big trouble if they appear anywhere on the internet. Seunghyun is sick and tired of clearing my public image.”

Jisoo still looks like she’s seen a ghost. But she gives a small salute and says, “Yes sir.”

Her friends laugh at her for this. Jiyong only shakes his head, smiling.

His gaze wanders from the sky, to the opposite bank of the Han river, to the concrete beneath him and eventually, back to Minho.

From then on, things unfold like any other hangout would. Drinking, chatting. It’s fun enough, but at some point Jiyong gets a little tired. He hasn’t had this much social interaction in quite a while, with new people no less. So, while everyone is busy with some hilarious story that Jihoon is telling, Jiyong quietly makes leave and approaches the railing. He sits down, swinging his arms over the lower bar, legs dangling off the edge.

Uneven footsteps approach from behind. Minho sways and Jiyong isn’t quick enough to help stabilize him, he’s already fallen on his . He laughs. He looks at Jiyong, a dazed smile plastered onto his lips.

“You’re not having fun?” Minho asks, with just the faintest trace of concern in his voice.

“No, I am,” Jiyong assures.

“Then what are you doing here alone?” Minho asks, eyes growing unfocused.

Jiyong stares across the river, at the opposite shore. He too lets his eyes go out of focus, the flickering light smudging in his vision. “I just needed a breather.” Ironic to say with his lungs full of nicotine, but true nonetheless.

Minho nods. He stares ahead.

“I’ve never been here,” Jiyong says, just to fill the silence that’s heavy between them. The music and chatter are loud enough behind them, but here, by this railing, their legs hanging off the edge, it seems to be deadly quiet.

“We come here often,” Minho says and Jiyong recalls him saying it a few times throughout the night. “I love this place.”

The silence settles once again and Jiyong wants it gone. As if reading his mind, Minho continues,

“I think the reason I love it so much is that…” He points across the river. “The walkway looks like it could be from any city on a river.”

Jiyong looks in the direction where Minho is pointing. It’s the lights that he had stared at and let smudge a second ago. He finds that Minho is right, especially with one’s vision clouded, the place does look quite generic.

“You can just pretend you’re not here,” Minho mumbles.

“You can pretend you’re in Budapest,” Jiyong says, because it’s the first city that popped into his mind. His personal favourite.

“Or Paris,” Minho says.

Something in his voice makes Jiyong look at him. Just as he expected, he sees that faint little smile on Minho’s lips, a smile that hides excitement and longing. He sees a spark in his eye, that Jiyong knows is so much more than the street lights reflecting in his pupils.

“You’ve been in Paris,” Minho says.

Jiyong nods. He has quite a history with the city. He’s been there four times while touring, and two times for Fashion Week. To Jiyong too, like so many, it used to be the place you dream of visiting whenever you think of any kind of travel. The dream city, the city of light, fashion, art, history and love.

He’d worked so hard to reach it, and once he finally did, he was already a full blown addict.

“What’s it like?” Minho asks.

Truth is, Jiyong doesn’t remember. When touring, and especially when visiting for Fashion Week, there simply isn’t much time for exploration. The little time he did have, Jiyong often spent in pain. He mostly remembers Charles de Gaulle and time spent in hotel rooms. He hardly remembers the performances. He remembers Fashion Week in bits and pieces.

But meeting Minho’s wide-eyed stare, the spark in his inflated pupils, expecting to hear something life-changing, Jiyong just wants to give him something. He thinks hard, trying to remember anything that isn’t absolutely dreadful.

He reaches out and pulls a tiny leaf from Minho’s hair. “One of the times we were there Seunghyun took me out for an evening walk,” he speaks quietly, eyes drifting to the smoke rising from his cigarette. “We walked along the Seine, reached the Eiffel Tower on foot.”

“The Eiffel Tower,” Minho mutters, lips parted in awe.

Jiyong smiles. “It’s beautiful at night. It was closed when we reached it, but it’s magnificent enough from the ground. Or any point in the city, really.” He brings the cigarette to his lips and lets the smoke fill his lungs. He exhales towards the river Han, clouding his view of the opposite bank. “In the end we went somewhere to eat, the first place we could find that was still open.”

That’s Jiyong’s best memory from Paris. For Minho’s sake, he left out the nasty details. Like the fact that he was suffering from a horrible serotonin crash and crippling side effects of his last fix of amphetamine. That taking him outside was the last thing Seunghyun could think of to help with the depressive episode Jiyong had slammed himself into. That the meal he had in a little tavern near Mont Marte was the first he’d had in three days. That Seunghyun had to force him to eat.

When Jiyong looks at him again, he sees that Minho has closed his eyes. “That sounds nice,” he says, swaying from side to side. Jiyong isn’t sure if he should hold onto him.

“Yeah, it was,” he says and he sounds as if the air had been knocked out of his lungs. He used to be a good liar.

Minho opens his eyes. “I want to go to Paris,” he sighs.

“We can go together,” Jiyong blurts out.

Minho looks at him, a big loopy grin on his face. “You think so?”

Jiyong nods. “For sure. Once you make it big… and finish school…”

Minho closes his eyes again as if he’s imagining it. “Together in Paris,” he whispers. For a minute he doesn’t move. Then he announces, “I’m going to lie down.”

He doesn’t “lie down” so much as he lets himself tumble backwards, and Jiyong has to scramble to hold the back of his head so he doesn’t get hurt. Minho doesn’t seem to notice. As soon as his head touches the concrete, he’s out cold.

Jiyong hastily takes his hoodie off, folds it and puts it under Minho’s head. He stands, legs shaky, throws one last glance at the sleeping boy before he pads back to where everyone’s still sitting in a circle.

Jiyong crouches by Jiho and nudges him. “Minho passed out. Isn’t it a good idea to go home now…?”

Jiho is a little disoriented, but apparently less so than the other three. Jiyong is grateful for this.

He glances at his phone, squinting. The younger nods. “We—should. He needs some rest, yeah, yeah. It’s four am, our dorm will be open soon.”

With a bit of nudging and repeated statements, Jiho gets everyone to stand and start picking up their trash in preparation to leave. Jiyong helps out at first, but ultimately goes back to Minho’s side.

He isn’t sure what to do. He takes Minho by the shoulder and shakes him gently.

“Kid.”

No response. Jiyong sighs. He pokes Minho’s shoulder.

“Kid. Wake up. We gotta go.”

Jiyong shakes him some more, but it isn’t until he pokes Minho’s cheek that he starts to stir, letting out sleepy little noises.

“Yong,” he mumbles, squinting up at Jiyong.

“Yeah,” he speaks weakly. He clears his throat and continues, “You fell asleep. We need to get you back to your dorm.”

Minho blinks a few times. With Jiyong’s help he sits up and, moving slowly, looks around himself. “Oh—it’s yours isn’t it,” Minho mumbles timidly and picks the hoodie up. Before handing it to Jiyong he clumsily attempts to brush off pebbles and dirt.

“It’s okay,” Jiyong assures. He stands, puts the hoodie back on and offers Minho a hand. “Let’s go.”

Jiyong and Jiho support Minho while they walk, while Jihoon, Seungyoon and Jisoo seem to be doing well enough on their own.

On the train they find him a spot and he spends the ride snoozing.

“We can take it from here,” Jiho says when they reach their stop.

Jiyong shakes his head. “I’ll go with you. I wanna make sure—you all get home safely.”

Jiho is surprised only for a second. “Sure,” he mumbles.

Minho is more or less able to walk on his own after he wakes up. Jiho and Jiyong stay as moderators. Jisoo, Seungyoon and Jihoon have been able to since the beginning.

Jiyong is fascinated with the yellow building. From the outside, it looks like a hospital, or a school. From the inside, it once again looks like a hospital, or a hotel, but slightly dirtier. There is nothing visible to indicate uncleanliness, there is simply a creeping feeling of it as they pass through the halls.

Jiyong insisted on going upstairs with the others, to help with Minho in case he couldn’t handle climbing.

“Well, that’s them,” Jiho announces in front of a door. Seungyoon approaches and begins to fumble with the key.

Jiyong glances at the number. Then he raises his eyebrows at Jiho. “Them?”

“Yoon and Minho are staying here. The rest of us are from Seoul… You know, we got homes here.”

“Ah.”

Seungyoon tries to lead Minho into the room, but he wrings himself from the younger’s grasp and stumbles back towards Jiyong.

Before he even has the time to flinch, let alone protest, Minho’s arms are around Jiyong’s neck.

“Thank you for tonight,” he mumbles. “I’ll see you...”  He doesn’t finish the sentence, only trots into his room.

Seungyoon stops at the doorway, giving a little bow. “Thank you for joining us tonight, Mr. Kwon—er, Jiyong.”

“It was my pleasure,” he says, still tingly from the hug.

He walks out with Jiho, Jihoon and Jisoo. They part ways at a crossing not too far from the dorms. They all thank him for his presence.

Jiyong walks towards the subway station, thinking about the gratitude he inspired in these kids. Thinking about the kiss, the hug. Thinking about Minho’s sleepy, drunken words.

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Ghad20
199 streak #1
this seems intense can't wait to start reading ^^ thank you