There’s no way out. A year ago he would’ve just snorted some amphetamine. With his only coping mechanism taken away, there is no way out.
It’s a steel trap, four walls pressing down on him, suffocating him endlessly. No matter how he turns, no matter where he looks, it’s the same cold walls, the same emptiness, same lack of oxygen.
He lies on the floor with the polished wood flat and hard against his back and the back of his head. He’s being pressed into the parquet by an invisible force, or being, sitting on his chest. Suffocating him. This force never truly leaves, it merely gets less intense at times.
And no matter how many packs of cigarettes he smokes his way through, it doesn’t go away. None of it does. No matter how many times he fills his lungs with smoke, he still can’t breathe. Nicotine brings no relief anymore, at this point it’s just a way to pass the time.
Jiyong watches the smoke curling from his cigarette. He shakes the ash off one last time, watches the thin, transparent line dance up towards the ceiling, dispersing in the air above. He wonders, if it would hurt. He doesn’t think so. Just out of curiosity, he lowers the tip of the cigarette onto his arm. He listens to the sizzling noise, watches his own skin burn. It doesn’t hurt. It stings, but nothing beyond that.
What is he to do now? When nothing helps him breathe, nothing alleviates the pressure off his chest, nothing stops the walls from crushing him?
Jiyong tosses the extinguished cigarette into the ashtray and reaches across the floor to grab his phone from where it had skidded the last time he’d tossed it away. But just as each time that evening, he faces the same problem--who would he even call? He’s scrolled by names so many times, always something holding him back from pressing the contact.
A name catches his eyes. Minso. Jiyong wonders if being nauseous, trembling with a fever and expelling your entire stomach is better than this.
Anything's better than this.
This is what he's been running from, what he'd gladly replaced with a life of turbulence, violent changes between exhilaration, melancholy and nausea. Following that insane pace, looking for the next fix and dealing with the consequences seems easier than this. Anything's better than this.
Yet he doesn't call. Be it because the tiniest part of him doesn't want to go back, wants to stay clean even for the price of numbness and heaviness, inertia and entrapment, or because another name distracted him from this temptation.
Just below, Minho.
Without much thought, Jiyong figures Minho might just be the only person he can call right now. He doesn't want to question why it is so. Might be because he doesn't care about Minho as much, doesn't care about disturbing him and feels no restraint asking favours of him. But he doesn't want to question it.
He dials the number.
"Can you come over?" Jiyong asks almost as soon as he picks up.
He's taken aback. Unsure what to say, Minho lets out a contemplative sigh. "Is it urgent?"
"It's not work, but…" Jiyong sighs, closes his eyes. "It is—it's kind of urgent."
"Okay," Minho mutters. He pauses. "Right now?"
Jiyong realizes, and it makes the pressure on his chest greater, more unbearable, that this isn't going to work. The one person he could get himself to call without guilt or restriction is unavailable because of course he is.
What was he thinking? He can't just pull people out of their lives, responsibilities, daily routines, to come hang out with him whenever he's having a depressive episode. Maybe he should be more appreciative of the people who, despite everything, make an effort to do this, but that's a thought for another time.
"Listen, you don't have to come unless you're completely free. It's—" Jiyong sighs and presses the heel of his palm to his eye. "It's nothing anyway, nothing you should waste your time on unless you have time to waste."
There's a light tapping sound from the other line before Minho asks, "What's going on?"
An avalanche of words rushes up, but gets caught behind a lump in Jiyong’s throat. So much he could say, but doesn’t want to, not right now, not like this, not to Minho. So he ends up with his lips parted as if to speak, but unable to.
“I don’t want to be alone,” he says as the only explanation he’s willing to offer.
As soon as he utters the words, Jiyong is overwhelmed with an urge to slam his head against a hard surface. The feeling is made worse with Minho’s silence.
In a futile attempt to retroactively make his statement less pathetic, he says, “It’s fine though. Don’t go out of your way if you’re busy. I’m fine.”
The tapping noise continues. “Actually,” Minho speaks after an agonizing moment. He chuckles, “It’s kind of embarrassing really. I’m probably the only person still working on an assignment on a Friday night… I could use a quiet place to finish my work. If you’ll have me,” he adds, a gentle tone Jiyong’s never heard before from him.
Jiyong huffs. “You’re unbelievable,” he mumbles, covering his face. “Fine… I guess I’ll let you stay.”
“I’ll be right there,” Minho says before hanging up.
It takes Minho a little less than an hour to reach Jiyong’s home in Gangnam. The idea is to let Minho paint somewhere, a room where Jiyong would be able to lie around, basically do what he’s been doing up until now, but with Minho’s presence hopefully making it easier. The room best suited for this kind of arrangement would be Jiyong’s bedroom. Which means he has a little less than an hour to tidy up.
Jiyong sits up in a panic. Funny how moving a millimeter from this floor in this living room seemed so difficult seconds ago, but it’s so easy once stakes exist.
Every Monday the wonderful Mrs. Kim comes and cleans up the entire house, entirely undoing all of Jiyong’s weekly mess. It isn’t as bad as it used to be, when he would spend days on end not even moving from his bed. These days he moves around, he’s back in the studio much more thanks to his and Minho’s project. Still, it’s a Friday, and Mrs. Kim hasn’t done her job yet.
He won’t even try to do as thorough of a job as she does, but the very least he can pick up the clothes from the floor, empty out the ashtray by his bed, clear out his desk, make his bed, open the window. Because he keeps his blinds shut nearly all the time, Jiyong forgets about the wonderful view of the Seoul skyline he has from his bedroom. He stands by the window, open for the first time in so long, and watches the flickering lights across the river Han. He loses track of time, filling his lungs with fresh air, fresh as can be in a city such as Seoul, but certainly clearer than his smoke filled living room.
This thought stirs him, reminds him to go downstairs and pick up the ashtray from the floor, throw away the empty packs of cigarettes, open the windows downstairs as well. He goes to look for a new pack, perhaps something to help him pass the time before Minho gets there, but he realizes that he doesn’t have any left. Jiyong sighs at himself. Pours a glass of the first liquor he gets his hands on. He lies down on the couch, propped up a little on the armrest to be able to sip his drink as he waits.
The doorbell stirs him awake. The glass has nearly slipped out of his hand. Although empty, Jiyong’s glad he woke up before he would have to deal with broken glass. He leaves it in the kitchen and goes to open the door.
He wonders if a proper way to greet someone in this situation exists. Minho is trying. He offers a smile and a cheerful, “hey!” although despite his tone, he’s gripping tightly onto the strap of his bag, knuckles white with the intensity.
“Thank you for coming,” Jiyong says.
Talking hurts. With everyone else who used to visit like this, it was hardly ever necessary. When you know someone as long as he’s known Youngbae and Chaerin, when such a bond exists as it does with Seunghyun and Daesung, not much talking is required for them to simply know exactly what he needs.
This isn’t the case with Minho, yet Jiyong is stubborn to retain his wordlessness. That’s why, after giving him a second to take his shoes off, he only takes Minho by the sleeve of his jacket, and leads him upstairs into his newly tidied room.
There still, he doesn’t speak. Jiyong lies on the bed, flat on his back, and continues staring at the ceiling like he had for so many hours before. Minho stands nearby, the sound of his jacket’s zipper being tugged fills the room. Jiyong figures it’s unfair of him just to leave Minho like this—he still feels like a stranger in this house, he isn’t nearly as comfortable as his other friends when they visit.
But talking hurts. He can’t bring himself to utter a single word.
Minho stands a second more, before he looks around for a place to leave his bag and jacket, and he chooses the floor by the bed. Jiyong feels the heaviness of his gaze. When they meet eyes for the briefest moment, Jiyong is afraid of what Minho might have seen, that it might prompt him to ask questions.
But he doesn’t. Jiyong stares in awe as Minho doesn’t say a word, beginning to search his pockets. Never has he been more grateful for someone’s silence. [It hits him then that despite them knowing each other for such a brief time, despite there not being an instantaneous bond, perhaps due to the way they’d met, Minho does understand.]
Out of a pocket he pulls out a… colourful bandaid, with cartoon characters on it.
The bed dips when Minho sits beside Jiyong. He leans down, overly concentrated as he puts the band aid on the burn mark right above the crown on the inside of Jiyong’s forearm. The band aid does nothing. It isn’t a suitable way to treat a burn. Jiyong isn’t bleeding. It’s merely an attempt at cheering him up, Minho’s little piece of care. It makes Jiyong feel guilty, for being unable to offer anything but an appreciative huff in return.
Minho doesn’t linger on the bed. Jiyong sees him moving out of his peripheral vision, but he only looks at Minho once he’s settled down. What Jiyong sees when he looks to the side is Minho, having pulled a chair up next to the bed, one foot on the nightstand and his sketchbook balanced on his knee.
Jiyong doesn’t look away again. He watches Minho’s pencil move, held by slender fingers. He listens to the against the paper. He watches, also, Minho’s profile, his furrowed brows and the little pout set upon his lip, the way he stops every now and again to push his bangs out of his eyes.
Jiyong doesn’t look away, focusing only on the sounds of the pencil .
When he opens his eyes next, Jiyong isn't sure if he's slept or not. There is nothing to indicate the passage of time; the sky is just as dark as it has been before his eyes had closed, Minho is in the same position as he'd been before he’d drifted off. The only difference is the blanket that has been draped over him. Slowly coming to, Jiyong fixes his gaze on the culprit once again.
Feeling the gaze on him, the of Minho’s pencil come to a halt and he looks to the side.
He smiles. “You’re awake.”
Jiyong nods, rolling over onto his side and pulling the blanket tighter around himself. “You haven’t finished your assignment,” he says, voice raspy.
“No, I finished it. I moved onto some practice sketches.” As he says this, Minho promptly closes the sketchbook and picks up his bag to put all of his supplies away.
Watching him do this, Jiyong finds himself saddened by the loss of the view. He doesn’t know what’s so soothing about it but one thing’s for sure, he could watch Minho draw or paint for hours. It’s this thought that brings an insane idea into his mind, one that he isn’t able to shake off while he watches Minho close his bag.
“Are the dorms a good place to study or… do these kinds of assignments?” Jiyong asks.
Minho straightens up, tilts his head. “What do you mean?”
“I’ve always had a place of my own, lots of space to do what I needed.” He shrugs. “I was just wondering if it’s ever annoying trying to be productive in such a space that you have to share with others.”
Minho stops to think for a moment, this time filling the room with the sounds of the button on his pants being opened and pressed closed. “It can be annoying at times, yeah. But we all pull through. I’m not the first or the last person to stay at a dorm.”
Jiyong stares ahead of himself, trying to find the least assertive way to make his suggestion. “Would it make it easier if you had somewhere to go to do your work?”
It once again takes Minho a while to come up with an answer. “Sometimes it’s easier to just stay in my room,” he says. “But I guess it would be nice. Every artist dreams of having their own studio.”
Jiyong swallows. He looks at Minho. “You can come here if you ever need a quiet place to work.”
Minho isn’t exactly surprised. His smile shows gratitude for the suggestion he’s anticipated being spoken out loud. “That could be nice,” he says. “Thank you.”
Jiyong tries to make himself get up. With less effort than anticipated, he finds himself in an upright position. There are technical details over Minho visiting to be figured out, but at the moment he isn’t capable of such brainstorming.
“I’m sorry for being such a terrible host today,” Jiyong says instead.
“It’s fine, things were a little…” He trails off, fumbling with the same button until he settles on an expression, “...unusual today.”
“You can say that again,” Jiyong mutters, rubbing his cheek. “I suppose it’s a bit late for that but, would you like a drink?”
Minho gives a polite smile. “I’m okay.”
Jiyong has to resist the urge to roll his eyes. “You’ve been here a while, don’t you want some water at least?”
“I should get going actually, it’s late,” Minho gives his excuses as he picks his bag up from the ground.
At this point Jiyong gives up. “Well, if you need anything before you go…” He opens his arms and shrugs.
Standing up from the chair and taking it back to its original place, Minho smiles. “Fine, fine… I might take you up on that glass of water.”
Minho drinks his water in the hallway as if he’s in a rush to leave. This is it… Jiyong’s last chance to ask.
He clears his throat. “Minho… I was wondering.”
Minho raises his eyebrows, looking at Jiyong over his glass.
“What do you remember from your outing with your friends a week ago?”
Minho stops drinking, holds the glass and stares at it. “A bit…”
Jiyong swallows. “Do you remember that I called?”
Minho hesitantly looks at him. “Do you want me to lie?”
Jiyong exhales through the nose. “No.”
“Well…” Minho hands the glass back. “See you another time? You can call me whenever you need… And hey, let’s talk about me coming here to paint, hm?” He smiles with considerable effort to break the tension that has built.
Jiyong appreciates the attempt.
“Yeah. See you another time.”
* * *
“Okay, let’s go from the top,” Jiyong says as calmly as possible.
He isn’t angry or upset. Minho’s anxiety is being transferred onto him through the electric currents that connect the mic and Jiyong’s headphones and he’s finding it difficult not to sound like an .
Minho wipes his hands against his jeans yet again. “Okay…” He mutters into the mic. His breathing sounds like wind in the headset. It’s rapid and irregular and at times sounds like choking.
Jiyong catches his own breathing quickening for no reason. He needs a second to calm himself.
“Actually wait,” he says, leaning forward.
When Minho looks up through the glass, he’s terrified, almost on the verge of tears.
“Are you okay?”Jiyong asks next.
Minho blanks for a second. “What?”
“You’ve been out of it ever since you arrived. Is everything okay?”
No response. Minho drops his gaze, beginning to fidget with the hem of his sleeve.
“Let’s take a break. It’s not working out right now, but I’m sure you’ll be fine if you take a breather.”
Minho nods a few times, taking off his own headphones with shaky hands.
Holy . Jiyong frowns at just how much Minho’s hands are shaking and how visible it is from this distance.
But he doesn’t get a chance to ask the younger anything as he bursts out of the box and immediately storms out the door.
Jiyong lets him. He clearly has some to deal with at the moment.
Except that in the next moment there’s a thud from outside the door and at this Jiyong jumps up from his seat. He rushes outside, only to see Minho in the hallway, standing up while holding onto the wall.
“I tripped,” he says quickly. His eyes glisten. “I’m fine.”
“For sure,” Jiyong says, already making his way over.
He takes Minho by the shoulders and stirs him towards the staircase, then sits him down on the first step. Gently, he pushes Minho’s head between his knees and instructs him to breathe as deeply as he can.
This hardly seems to help as Minho only continues shaking, now even more intensely than before. Jiyong attempts to get him to breathe along with counting, but this has no effect either.
He tries talking to him.
Before long, he’s out of ideas.
Desperate for any solution, Jiyong begins to hum his most famous ballad while rubbing Minho’s back.
At first this too does nothing, but eventually Minho’s breathing evens out, the little whimpers he’s been letting out ceasing as well. He’s left trembling, but at that point he slowly straightens up and tries to do some breathing exercises on his own.
Jiyong’s voice fades.
They sit in silence, overlooking the first floor.
“I’m sorry,” is the first thing Minho says and Jiyong isn’t surprised.
“No reason to apologize.”
And they’re silent again. Sitting together, staring ahead.
“I saw that something was wrong. I saw you trying to hold it together.”
No response. Minho shrinks, hugging himself.
“Minho, what’s wrong?”
“What isn’t?” He says with considerable effort and a hint of a bitter laugh in his voice.
“Let’s do one thing at a time, okay?”
Minho shoots Jiyong a quick, uncertain glance. Then he nods, looking back ahead. “I guess… I’m just really stressed? It’s finals season and I’m snowed in with work. I tried not to procrastinate it but I just—I get so stressed that I can’t even start and—” He is very close to hyperventilating again.
Jiyong’s hand automatically goes to rub his back. “Breathe,” he mutters.
Minho takes a few deep breaths before continuing. “I’m struggling to keep up. There’s so much to do and I’m already behind. But if I don’t do well I could lose my spot in the dorm—then I’d have nowhere to stay and I’d probably have to go home without a degree that I came here for and—”
“Hey, hey, deep breaths,” Jiyong reminds, continuing to rub soothing circles on Minho’s back. He gives him time to calm down before speaking, “So that’s two problems. Finals season stress and worry over the dorm.”
“Two of many,” Minho mumbles.
“I understand. But we’ll tackle one at a time, remember? So, stress. I have an idea that might help.”
Sniffling, Minho gives Jiyong a quizzical look.
“You can always reschedule with me! Until finals pass we can space out our meetings. We’re in no rush, you and I. You need some time to study without other engagements? Done.”
For just a second Minho seems to relax, but soon enough his expression is worried again. “Are you sure? You’re not busy?”
Jiyong almost laughs at this. He just gives Minho a smile and a raise of the eyebrows. “Minho, I’m a recovering drug addict. Even though it’s been a while, I’m still not… all that functional. I hardly have anything to do these days. It will be absolutely no problem to postpone some of our meetings, or all of them, until you’re less snowed in.”
Minho’s bottom lip quivers but he smiles nonetheless. “Thank you… Thank you. That might help.”
“Great! See, this way you’ll be able to focus on your studies and not worry about your dorm spot.”
Minho nods, ducking his head to wipe his eyes.
“But, if it comes to the worst case scenario, just know that Seunghyun could always find you a place in Seoul.”
Minho now shakes his head. “I couldn’t—my family couldn’t afford it.”
“We’d figure something out.”
Knowing what this really means, Minho once again shakes his head and firmly says, “No.”
Jiyong presses his lips together. Then, another solution crosses his mind. “Well… There’s enough room here too.”
Minho raises his eyebrows. “That… That could work. That’d be lovely.”
Jiyong smiles and nods. “And remember, you’re always free to come here to paint or study if you can’t focus anywhere else.”
Minho pouts in thought. “About that. How—how would that work?”
Jiyong shrugs. “I’ll have copies of the keys made.”
“Oh—Um, thanks, that’s…”
“No need to thank me, kid. It’s my pleasure.”
This time when Minho hides his face, it’s to hide his smile.
“I actually do have an art studio as well—more like a modified room, but I think you’d like it.”
At this, Minho perks up.
Jiyong can’t help smiling. “I can show it to you later.”
Minho nods enthusiastically, no longer hiding his excitement.
But it is lost once, after a brief silence, Jiyong asks, “Anything else you’d like to share,” nudging him softly.
Minho’s smile disappearing gives Jiyong a sharp sting of guilt, but he knows the question is necessary so he tries to suppress the guilt.
Minho thinks for a very long moment. He raises his head, as if he’s about to say something. Then he swiftly returns to contemplation for a moment more. “I just… I can’t keep going like this.”
“Like what?” Jiyong asks quietly.
“Overthinking everything, Doubting and second guessing. Always jumpy, always scared. I’m—tired of having panic attacks every other day.”
Jiyong presses his lips together, trying to find the right thing to say. “You know… among the things Seunghyun can get you is a therapist.”
Seeing Minho shrink, hugging himself tighter, Jiyong curses himself for immediately pressuring him into therapy.
He knows how difficult it was for him when friends tried to force him into rehab. How could he be so stupid? One does not immediately bring up therapy, for ’s sake.
He simply… he didn’t know what else to suggest. Which, of course, doesn’t negate the fact that he ed up.
To Jiyong’s surprise though, Minho says, “I could’ve found one when I got here, but… I’m not sure it would work. I think I’m—” he laughs bitterly, “I’m pretty sure there’s no fixing me.”
“I don’t think you believe that,” Jiyong says in a gentle tone he’s never heard from himself before.
Minho’s shoulders tense and he clenches his fists. “I’m ashamed,” he whispers. “My family will think I’m a freak. They—already treat me that way. If they knew I was seeing a shrink—”
“Your family isn’t here, Minho. Let yourself be free from them. Independence is one of the reasons you moved out, isn’t it? Let yourself be independent. Do something you know is good for you.”
Jiyong knows he’s making leaps in logic here. He knows it’s a huge gamble to assume Minho’s family situation, but at the same time, from what Minho has told him, he has a pretty good guess.
He has to try.
There’s a long, heavy sigh from Minho. “I’ll try… I’ll think about it.” He bites his bottom lip, clicks his piercing against his teeth. “Thank you. Thank you, Jiyong.” He tries for a smile.
A thought pops up in Jiyong’s mind, so crazy he feels bad for ever thinking it. Despite this it ends up crossing his lips and being spoken, no matter his efforts to honour his rational thinking.
“We don’t have to continue recording tonight,” he speaks, “But it’s gotten very late. It would be okay if you… If you wanted to stay here.”
Minho sits up, perhaps startled by the idea and Jiyong mentally kicks himself. Of course it was a stupid thing to say, of course it was a ridiculous proposition.
“That’d be okay?” Minho asks quietly.
“Yes,” Jiyong says, matching his volume.
Minho’s shoulders relax, he lets out a breath and nods. He looks… relieved. “I could use a break, maybe… I’ll just have to redo my study plan and…” He looks at Jiyong. “Maybe reschedule our next meeting? So I can catch up on my work?”
Jiyong beams stupidly. “Of course!”
There are a few rooms Jiyong doesn’t use. When he used to throw house parties every other week, people would often sleep over in those, or while the party was still ongoing.
Other times, it was for his friends to sleep over when they were visiting.
One such room was given to Minho to sleep in after their talk. Jiyong went into the studio to tidy up, but ended up just sitting around and smoking.
He stares out the window through the smoke, wondering.
Why does it matter to him so much that Minho is always comfortable around him and in this job? Why does he care so much about Minho’s wellbeing?
Maybe he isn’t as terrible a person as he believed. What he’s doing is just basic human decency, really.
But when people tell you that you’re selfish and self centered enough, you start to believe them. Soon after… you start to act like it.
Jiyong wants to feel good about himself for apparently having fixed this character flaw of his. But he doesn’t, he can’t.
He doesn’t believe it. Deep down he knows he’s the same person he was in an LA hotel room, that miserable curled up man who can only think about his next fix.
His chest hurts just thinking about it. Subconsciously, Jiyong’s hand goes up to his chest, rubbing as if to get the pressure away.
Jiyong gets up. He puts out his cigarette and gets to work. He needs to move, to keep busy, otherwise his mind might go back to those years ago.
Otherwise his mind might go back to Minho, barely keeping it together in the recording booth, and Jiyong caught himself unable to breathe when he thinks about that.
* * *
Light shines from behind Jiyong’s eyelids. Too bright, coming from large, panel windows. He already knows where he is.
Opening his eyes sluggishly, he catches a glimpse of the ceiling of his living room.
That’s right. He had another nightmare.
Despite his efforts not to think of it, images flash through Jiyong’s head, startling him out of his sleep.
Noise reaches him soon after. Quick, scratchy of pencil against paper.
Jiyong opens his eyes at last, only to see Minho sitting on the floor, not too far from where Jiyong’s head is, back against the couch.
Jiyong finally catches a glimpse of what the younger is working on.
Hands. In different poses, from different angles. Jiyong’s eyes widen when he sees that one of those hands has a little smiley face at the base of its thumb. His shock is quickly replaced with a soft smile.
“Is that me?”
Minho jumps up in his spot and presses his sketchbook to his chest, clutching the pencil tight.
“No,” he shoots.
“I saw my tattoos on there,” Jiyong says, unraveling himself from the blanket.
Hold on a second. A blanket? He didn’t get himself a blanket last night.
He looks at Minho, who is still clutching his sketchbook.
“I was doing a study,” he says. “Hands—anatomy—my weakest point. I had to practice.”
“I see,” Jiyong says, grinning. He stretches like a cat, letting out a yawn. “Well, from what I saw you did a great job.”
Minho clears his throat. “Can I ask what you’re doing on the couch? I thought you had a room of your own.”
What a swift change of subject. As impressed as he is, Jiyong can’t help resenting Minho for bringing this up.
Jiyong finds himself unafraid of the possibility of telling Minho the truth.
Maybe it’s the fact that he already bared himself to Minho with Superstar, his long lost song. Maybe.
“I had a nightmare. I still have them from time to time so I walk around the house to calm down. I often end up falling asleep here in the end.”
“Oh… I see.”
Jiyong doesn’t want to allow any more awkward silences. He gets up and begins folding the blanket, just so he has something to do.
Minho kicks into action as well, closing his sketchbook and picking up his drawing supplies.
“Do you, um, want coffee or something?” He asks, standing up.
“Sure,” Jiyong says, nodding in thanks. “Do you want me to get some breakfast? I’m not sure what I have in my fridge…” He trails off, thinking of Chaerin’s recent grocery shopping. It can’t be that bad, can it? Jiyong hasn’t eaten or cooked much.
“Your fridge is fine,” Minho says through a chuckle. “I had some cereal.”
“Okay then.” That will be easy enough to check.
And Minho disappears into the kitchen to make coffee while Jiyong goes upstairs to put the blanket away.
While Jiyong munches on his own cereal, Minho reminds him of his art studio and how he said he would take him there. Immediately after finishing his breakfast, Jiyong takes him upstairs.
Minho is standing in the doorway, eyes wide, lips slightly parted. He’s tense, as if afraid to walk in.
“I haven’t used it in a while, so it’s much tidier…” Jiyong says, rubbing the back of his neck.
It’s on the very top floor, so sunlight isn’t coming in just from the windows on the wall, but from large ceiling windows as well.
Usually there would be tons of Jiyong’s works in progress scattered around the floor, but now they are neatly put up against the wall. The paintings hung around as decorations are none by him. There are much fewer of his clothing designs hanging around than there would be if he were active.
The desk in the corner is tidy. The floors are clean and so are the supplies, neatly arranged on two shelves by the window.
There is but one spot, in the center of the room, that exudes chaos.
A lone easel with its canvas turned away from the two of them. Paint brushes have fallen off, paint has splattered around it. Jiyong’s chair was pushed up beside it, he’s been using it as a table.
“Like it’s straight out of a movie,” Minho mumbles. “May I?” He asks Jiyong, pointing to the easel.
Minho walks over. He spends a while staring at Jiyong’s work in progress, or rather his beginning.
“It was watching you that inspired me to start painting again.”
It just came out. Jiyong didn’t really mean to say it.
“I haven’t made anything since.... before my last tour.” Jiyong smiles serenely. “I’ve missed it.”
Minho looks at Jiyong, bewildered. “You started painting again… because of me?” He points to himself to emphasize his shock.
Jiyong nods with a shrug of his shoulders.
When Minho’s gaze drops back to the canvas, he’s beaming.