cover your tracks / sequel to I'm Yours Tonight / pg / 2600+ words
the end unpauses itself and they learn the ways to want each other again
ryeowook&yunho, changmin, kyuhyun
+ 5 years
“Ryeowook, are you ready?”
Ryeowook gazed up from his papers, black-framed glasses sitting askew on his nose. The exhaustion from his face was apparent but he managed a wan smile before pushing aside his computer screen.
“Actually, no—,” Ryeowook bit his lip, staring down at the scribbles marking the lines of the music sheet. The digital clock sitting across the table glowed 21:13, forty-five minutes since the last time Changmin had asked.
“Kyuhyun is waiting, Ryeowook-ah,” Changmin interrupted testily, gripping the handle of his leather satchel as he swallowed audibly.
The look of amusement Ryeowook shot him was telling of how well he knew his old friend—the strength of the hold Changmin had on the strap had turned his knuckles white and the purse of his lips could only be his way of stifling an impatient yell.
“—but I’ll get back later to finish this song. For now, let’s go meet Kyuhyun!”
Making a show of his readiness to leave their shared studio, Ryeowook closed the booklet with a flourish and dusting his hands together, signaled the end of his work. He heaved a dramatic sigh of relief before retrieving his sneakers from beneath the soundboard, quickly slipping them on.
“Thank God for you, Changmin. Or I’ll never know night from day. Or maintain my sanity. Or have any friends,” Ryeowook declared, “You’re a heavenly gift.”
Changmin only grunted.
He joined Changmin at the door of the studio, looping an arm around his waist as an exaggerated grin swept across his face.
“I’m sorry. We’ll stop by Tous les Jours later for your favorite cheesecake, all right?” Ryeowook’s grin was unflinching and now that they were not wearing shoelifts anymore, it was easy for him to snuggle into Changmin’s side as a form of aegyo-infused apology. He only separated long enough to press the button of the elevator.
“It’s past 9. Tous les Jours is already closed.”
“Then, Little Parisian for some butter croissants and coffee?”
At the mention of croissants, Changmin felt a flicker of a smile escape his lips despite his anger towards his friend.
“Come on, just let it all out.”
“Ryeowook, you’re such a workaholic!” Changmin finally yelped, stomping a heeled foot to the ground.
But Ryeowook only smiled knowingly, tightening the hold he had on Changmin’s waist, “Feel better?”
“Better,” Changmin sighed. He ran a hand through his hair, a tense smile on his face, “I’m—”
“I know, I know. Me too,” Ryeowook released him to meet his eyes and the fire in his glare softened, albeit temporarily.
“Seriously, though, if it weren’t for me you wouldn’t even go home!” Changmin said in exasperation, “Wait, you even have a—,” he sighed in despair, pulling a pen from behind Ryeowook’s ear.
The elevator arrived with a pleasant chime and they hurried in.
“Which is why having you around as a composer and songwriter is a blessing,” Ryeowook pointed out, pausing to tuck his scarf beneath his coat, “You and I, we’re meant to work together. Our fates have spoken. This is the confluence where our paths meet, never to divide again. You’re the words to my melody, Shim Changmin. Quite literally, I must say.”
“Quit being so poetic; I’m not mad anymore,” Changmin rolled his eyes.
“Good,” Ryeowook winked then his face turned serious, “The ballad for Iris 4 is seriously unfinished, though. The producers demanded for a demo by next Thursday and I’m barely done with the verse. They have their eyes on Lee Hi to sing it but I’m not really sure if her voice is suited for the song, or the drama for that matter. Akdong Musician is much better. But then again, I’m merely a composer, what say do I have in these kinds of decisions? I’ve also—”
“Now I’m mad,” Changmin glared and Ryeowook clapped a hand over his mouth, eyes forming smiling aegyo crescents.
“No more talk about work,” he promised with a salute, voice muffled by his palm.
As another show of apology, Ryeowook pulled his SM Entertainment staff access card from where it hung around his neck, stowing it vehemently in his bag.
Changmin grunted again, not bothering to hold the elevator doors open as he marched out the cart, the smaller man scurrying in tow.
“I have news,” Kyuhyun smiled conspiringly as soon as he had them seated in one of his restaurant-bars.
“I’d rather you have food,” Changmin said grumpily.
“It should be out any minute; I had the staff prepare salmon steak because I figured Ryeowook would hold you up from dinner again,” Kyuhyun said knowingly, earning him an ear-splitting grin from Changmin. Then Kyuhyun frowned, leaning over to wipe Ryeowook’s cheek with a thumb, “Wait, Ryeowook. You have an ink smudge—”
Since its expiration, Kyuhyun had chosen not to renew the contract offered to him by SM Entertainment, preferring instead to walk in his father’s footsteps and learn the ropes to business. Way before the unofficial dissolution of Super Junior at the end of 2015, he had been a regular at Kona Beans, not as a customer but as a worker. Finally confident in his experience, Kyuhyun opened his first restaurant-bar in a basement, where the rent was not exorbitantly high. Having such a venture nestled underground also allowed him greater control of the ambience to attract a specific range of clientele—young urban professionals in need of an unsuspecting place to unwind. Thanks to his business acumen, shrewdness and uncanny ability to sniff the latest trends and demands, the venture did well enough for him to open a few other establishments beyond Gangnam and with greater experimentation in concepts within a compressed span of time. As of late, Kyuhyun proudly owned several cafés, a restaurant with al fresco dining, on top of the restaurant-bar he began with.
“So what is this news you speak of?” Ryeowook’s eyebrows furrowed, curiosity piqued.
“You know how Siwon is really into property and real estate, right?” Kyuhyun began now that he had both of them in rapt attention, “He owns a pension in Jeju Island and it just completed construction about a month ago. He dropped by the café in Myeongdong earlier this afternoon on his way to filming to order coffee for the staff and he suggested that it would be a perfect time for a reunion. If this plan follows through, we would be his first guests before the pension is officially opened.”
“Just for us… twenty?” Changmin asked steadily.
“Yes,” Kyuhyun said firmly.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” Ryeowook whispered.
“Anything that requires you to leave your studio or see daylight is a bad idea, Ryeowook,” Kyuhyun laughed.
“Ryeowook has a point,” Changmin nodded, “It’s going to be hell for all twenty of us to coordinate vacation dates. Besides all of us are working and some of our members are still active in the entertainment industry.”
“I gave it some thought, too. Best to do it over a weekend,” Kyuhyun murmured, “The pension will be completely empty and it’s located pretty far away from Seogwipo or Jeju City, so it’s pretty out of sight. It’s right by the sea and it’s gated, too. When was the last time we’ve all been together in the same room? Six, seven years ago? Wouldn’t it be nice to have us all together again?”
“Didn’t peg you for the sentimental type, Kyuhyun-ah,” Changmin smirked.
“When?” Ryeowook asked curtly.
“One of the weekends next month. It’s just a short vacation, not an MT. Siwon did mention that the entire compound would be available for an entire week, so the usage of the pension is up to our discretion. There’s no imposition whatsoever. Whoever is in town and happens to be available are welcome to come, those who are overseas or working,” Kyuhyun glared at Ryeowook, “need not.”
“Thirty is when your life starts, haven’t you heard? No one would turn up, everyone will be busy. There’ll be no one to coordinate this monster of a reunion,” Ryeowook muttered.
“I say otherwise,” Kyuhyun smirked, “At the words ‘Dong Bang Su Ju reunion’, he would drop his duties and run to his rightful place as Leader again. And if I can’t convince you to come, he will.”
“Who?” Ryeowook widened his eyes, alarmed and horrified.
“Jungsoo-hyung, Ryeowook. Which group do you belong to?” Changmin snickered.
Ryeowook swallowed, sinking lower in his seat and muttering incoherently under his breath.
“I’m confident that everyone will at least have some interest in going. A weekend absent of work and women, plenty of alcohol and all the privacy you can have, it’s a golden—no, fucking platinum—opportunity,” Kyuhyun declared, slamming a pumped fist onto the table.
“I’m in!” Changmin grinned, hunger and annoyance clearly forgotten.
“Why must it always be us maknaes to do such work? How did you end up with this responsibility? Kyuhyun? Changmin?” Ryeowook grumbled.
“Somebody send this grumpy dwarf back to the mines. He’s exhibiting a serious case of withdrawal from being away for too long,” Changmin managed to joke while his fingers flew across the screen of his phone, typing text after text.
The following weekend had them at Kyuhyun’s apartment in Samseong-dong, sprawled across the couch with their cell phones in their hands. The window overlooking the hall showcased the modern skyline of Seoul and the gentle meander of the Han River, against the serene backdrop of the craggy peaks the city was built within. Needless to say, the view itself spoke volumes about the wealth of the owner.
"Doesn't everyone have things to do on this glorious Saturday morning?" Ryeowook exclaimed.
“The perks of being your own boss means you can declare a weekend a weekend,” Kyuhyun answered smugly as Changmin disappeared into his room to receive an incoming call, “And it’s only commonsensical that you help me out since our group is massive and Changmin only has four people to contact. So, there. We’ll divide the contact list,” Kyuhyun reprimanded.
“Haven’t you heard of SNS?” Ryeowook muttered.
“Sure, but isn’t it more fun to put them in a spot?” Kyuhyun sniggered, “At the sound of our voices, they wouldn’t have a choice but to agree and we can be assured of full attendance!”
“That’s not possible,” Ryeowook mumbled.
“I can’t be there. I have to stay in Seoul to compose. Unlike some people without bosses, I am bounded by deadlines.”
“Get inspired by Jeju. You’ve been struggling with the song for weeks and it’s evident how the stifling environment of the studio is affecting your productivity,” Kyuhyun reasoned.
“The studio helps me focus,” Ryeowook sighed, laying his head against the arm of the couch and stretching his legs out towards his friend.
“Focusing too hard will only drive you to a dead end,” Kyuhyun coaxed, “Relax a bit.”
“I am relaxed," Ryeowook snapped.
Kyuhyun exhaled as his voice dropped, “I thought we’ve been through this. This is not about whom I think is about, is it?”
Ryeowook gave him a light kick to his side, “If I was that bothered, would I have been there for the million SM Town concerts, company parties and birthday gatherings? I mean it when I say that I’m completely swamped with work, Kyuhyun.”
“Then why are you so reluctant on a weekend getaway? It’s just a few days.”
“I’ll just be a wet blanket,” Ryeowook dissuaded.
“Whatever it is, you need this vacation.”
“I need to complete my work so my vacation is actually earned,” Ryeowook insisted stubbornly.
“I’ve got Jaejoong and Junsu!” Changmin returned, bursting with excitement.
“Great! What about the other two?”
“Yoochun’s down with on-site filming in Busan and Yunho has a photoshoot with Armani.”
A fleeting look of uneasiness crossed Kyuhyun’s face before he cleared his throat, “Now, Ryeowook, it’s your turn to make calls. Go call Jungsoo.”
As Ryeowook disappeared behind the glass doors of the balcony, Kyuhyun turned to Changmin.
“Yunho has a shooting?”
“Yes,” Changmin nodded gravely.
“Doesn’t make much of a difference because Ryeowook is being difficult, too,” Kyuhyun mumbled, eyeing the smaller man who was now making wild gestures and laughing uproariously into the phone.
“It’s too perfect an opportunity to go wasted,” Changmin lamented.
“At least, the rest of us still have a reunion to look forward to,” Kyuhyun sighed.
"Still, it would be great if we could get Ryeowook on board."
Then he paused, meeting Kyuhyun's eyes as they whispered in unison, "Reverse psychology."
Kyuhyun and Changmin departed for Jeju Island on Friday morning after a whole week of ruthless planning and coordination, deliberately relieving Ryeowook of any responsibilities related to their trip despite him being there for every meeting. Besides excluding him from their plans, they had also ceased any form of encouragement in inviting him along.
"We'll only be wasting the weekend, Ryeowook," Changmin dismissed when Ryeowook had inquired on their itinerary.
"Yeah, just fishing, barbecuing, maybe light a bonfire. Not your kind of thing. Don't feel bad, Ryeowook," Kyuhyun chirped as he scrolled through a list of attractions in Jeju Island.
"Sounds fun," Ryeowook said hopefully.
"You won't be missing out much. Besides, it's not like you've never been there before," Changmin shrugged.
Ryeowook had only huffed, retreating to the kitchen to help himself to some tea.
To spite Ryeowook further, Kyuhyun and Changmin had created a collective chat involving all the members, having countdowns and spamming the group with pictures and grand plans of the impending getaway. Kyuhyun had also taken the liberty to artfully draw out an exciting itinerary which, of course, he had no intention of implementing. He also suggested Changmin and he left a day earlier to inspect the houses and seek out the nearest facilities before the rest of the group arrived.
“You weren’t such an exemplary maknae when you were in Super Junior,” Ryeowook eyed him suspiciously.
“Because we had you,” Kyuhyun said sweetly as Ryeowook pretended to choke at the layer of grease coating the statement.
“Here’s the address and contact information should there be a need to reach us,” Changmin handed Ryeowook a paper before unloading their bags from the trunk.
“And here’s a map and brochure of the pension,” Kyuhyun said hastily, shoving the papers into Ryeowook’s hands.
“Whatever for?” Ryeowook’s eyes narrowed at the two men.
“In case anyone of the members calls you for directions,” Kyuhyun explained, quickly sliding on his sunglasses.
“Next flight to Jeju is at 2:50pm, Ryeowook!” Changmin called cheerfully.
As Ryeowook watched them bicker over the trolley and luggage, the only image nagging the back of his mind was the studio Changmin and him shared.
The smell of sheet music and spilt coffee pervaded his senses as Changmin and Kyuhyun waved their goodbye. The screens flickering with neon sound waves and music files remaining open as they awaited his return were the only reminders that kept his feet anchored to the ground as he watched his friends disappear behind the automatic glass doors to the counters.
He wasn't oblivious or stupid, he knew what the two had been doing all week with their mind games in hopes of taking him along. Ryeowook was not going to falter but maybe, Kyuhyun was right about needing some time and distance away from work.
Such a job had become an excuse for imprisonment—living and breathing in a closed environment where interaction hardly mattered. He was not forced to share living space with ten or so others anymore and the sudden absence of regiment, discipline and timetables which he was once subjected to was leading him down a downward spiral he had long since realized but refused to acknowledge.
Right then, he felt a stab of longing for a disbanded band and regret for drifting ties. Speaking with Jungsoo and the others had only served to deepen his guilt to re-connect with them all again.
His gaze was directed to the silly brochure Kyuhyun had given him, pages filled with overly saturated illustrations of ocean waves, yellow sunshine and everything that opposed the dreariness that Ryeowook associated with his life.
Ryeowook swallowed his pride, pulled out his cellphone and quickly tapped at his speed-dial.
“Wait up,” he breathed, his heart fluttering with the adrenaline of spontaneity, “I’m going.”
Changmin and Kyuhyun had made Ryeowook swear on maintaining a work-free weekend the moment they arrived in Jeju. But the promise was easily made the second he set his eyes on Siwon's estate. The pension was anything but traditional, with a sleek exterior and an open-concept design harmonizing with the expansive landscape of the lawn leading to the sandy private beach, an endless horizon of sparkling ocean.
It was minutes past 10pm when Ryeowook finally completed stowing away the snacks and drinks Changmin and Kyuhyun had bought after combing the area for a convenience store. After shopping, they had black pork for dinner and finally returned to the pension after a few rounds of alcohol.
He was ready to call an early night when the doorbell rang.
“Are we expecting guests, guys?” Ryeowook yelled but there was no response.
So he trudged towards the entrance, swinging the handle and throwing the door open.
Decked in a low white V-necked t-shirt and black buttoned shorts, Ryeowook found himself confronted with the towering image of Jung Yunho, every inch as perfect as he had remembered him to be.