Fic where one day, while they're lying face to face in bed on a rainy afternoon, Taeyong asks Jaehyun, "How much do you love me?"
He asks, mostly teasing cause he knows just how hard it is for the younger to verbalize his feelings, but a part of him wants to know the truth.
Jaehyun doesn't answer, at least not immediately. But, when he does speak up, his voice slightly falters, sounding tired and weary as if he had dug up the words from somewhere deep within him.
"From here..." he starts, pointing his finger to the space between him and Taeyong.
But he pauses, and doesn't continue even when Taeyong bugs him about it for the rest of the day, and the next day, and the next week.
Eventually, Taeyong gives up, specifically when Jaehyun lets out a heavy sigh when he brings it up again.
"Oh." Taeyong blinks. Enough.
And soon the whole thing is forgotten. Amidst the flurry of dance practices, studio recording sessions, post-midnight what-am-i-doing-with-my-life self-therapy meetings, and actual group(-therapy) meetings, the words that Jaehyun couldn't say fade into white noise.
Fade into the background, once again. Pushed to that corner of the room past the elephant, to the corner with all the things left undusted and unsaid.
Once again, buried in the dirt and soil of Jaehyun's heart where he knows things are grown and harvested, not dug up and placed back again as if it had been a mistake to uproot them in the first place.
Jaehyun never gets to tell Taeyong that the reason he couldn't continue that day (and the days after that) is because he's not sure if there's a limit to how much he loves the elder. And the realization had scared him more than it comforted him.
Jaehyun wasn't the type to have his future planned out perfectly. But, somehow, a part of him already saw Taeyong there, standing at the end of an aisle, suited silhouette gilded by sunlight.
It had frightened him.
It was scary because they were new, and yet he already felt that deeply.
Scary because they were new, but all the things against what they had—the cameras, the idol contracts, the scandals, the rumors, the threat of dreams falling asunder—weren't.
Problems arise, and Jaehyun thinks he was right to be frightened.
Taeyong thinks he’s being a coward (not cautious) for not wanting to do skinship anymore, as if the rumors didn’t already exist before they got together.
The wound starts there, small and inconspicuous.
It isn’t until a couple more fights, mismatched schedules, new group units, distance, tired bones, tired always, and a fake dating scandal to boost publicity later that they take off the bandage solutions to find that the wound hadn’t healed, only festered.
And they break up.
A year and a half later, NCT disbands, and the members separate ways, now that the name that served to hold them together for almost a decade no longer exists the same way it did before.
Some, especially the younger ones, pursue further stardom. Some go off-the-grid & disappear.
Taeyong chooses to be in-between. He makes a name for himself as a music producer; it doesn’t go as hard as it would’ve been if he started from scratch. Because he was already known in the industry, offers, collaborations, and trust came to him easily.
But, still, he feels challenged, so much so that he doesn’t realize just how much time and years pass until he finds an old polaroid of him and Jaehyun wedged in the pages of one of his yellowed and dog-eared writing notebooks, the ones he used for noting lyrics.
The photo was taken a few months before they ended things. And on the page where Taeyong had kept it were things—words and phrases—that he didn’t get to say to Jaehyun:
“ur dimples are the best”
“selfish: think of me more”
“i thought i knew you best. that’s poison, right?”
“ur jokes are the best”
“a song for you would be endless”
“selfish again: sorry i didn’t say sorry”
“your selfish too we both are i guess”
“what were you going to say, that one rainy day?”
That rainy day. Taeyong smiled weakly to himself. Jaehyun had things he couldn’t say too.
A few days later, it rains. Taeyong stops working for the afternoon, opts for lying around in his bed. He hasn’t slept properly in three days.
He tosses and turns, wishes he could nap, but something about the way the rain hits his windowpanes keeps him up.
He stares at the plant on his bedside table, and eventually drifts to sleep, with his arm over the empty space on his bed.
When he wakes up, his room is dark. Only lit occasionally by his phone, which he finds pinging softly.
And when he opens it, a message from a contact he hasn’t seen appear on his phone in years flashes on the screen:
Message From: Jung Jaehyun
Subject: (no subject)