“someday,” jongin laughs, and his face is almost skeletal in the glow of the headlights, just like the mask he wears in the banks, and sehun shivers and doesn't know why, "they'll ask how we did it, taking and not caring about what happened afterwards, and we'll tell them it was easy."
a/n: i started this back in december 2012, but i completed it for my friend vee, as a reward for her accurate guess of my rng fic! vee, i warned you about this story, so i hope you like it :333
a huge giant enormous thank yous to my gf for cheering me on wayyyy back when, to my writing dom for making me have actual character development (ew), to kit for the once-over, and to mc for, well, #pompoms. also, props to manda for her amazing sekaiyeol artwork that helped inspire me ^^.
music for the road: love is blindness -- jack white's cover of the U2 song
warnings: classic hyperlydian deathy angst, gun violence, intense and possibly glorifying discussions about death, character death
Take the Night
The idea itself is a joke — or at least Sehun thinks it is. Chanyeol’s just gotten off the phone with his mother, a long conversation that leaves Chanyeol irritated, the pressure she always puts on him dragging like kindling over his bones.
“Sometimes I wish I could do something,” Chanyeol says, flopping onto the couch with his head in Sehun’s lap. “Something to show her that I don’t care, since she never listens when I try to tell her.”
On Sehun’s other side, Jongin is playing lazily on his DS with the volume on, and the sound effects should grate on his nerves, but Jongin’s been doing this forever, and while Jongin can be changeable, some things about him will never change.
“At least you see your parents,” Sehun mumbles, running his fingers through Chanyeol’s hair. It’s hard for Sehun to hold Chanyeol in his arms, his nervous energy bleeding through to Sehun’s fingertips, almost as if he’s always just on the edge of a movement, or about to run away.
“That’s just like,” Jongin starts, fingers slipping across the buttons of his game, and Sehun can see out of the corner of his eye how Jongin’s shoulders coil up the way they do whenever they talk about this, “my father — “
“If we really wanted to get their attention, we could do something.” Chanyeol rolls on his side, cheek pressing into Sehun’s thigh and Sehun can feel Chanyeol’s lips moving against the fabric of his pants, breath damp and ticklish. “It’d have to be something big…”
Sehun sighs. He is eighteen, and now he worries about becoming his parents, about growing older, about disappearing from people’s minds as easily as his own mother and father have fallen from his. “I can’t imagine anything less than armed robbery would get their attention.”
“One of your father’s banks, Jongin,” Chanyeol says, smile quick and crinkling the corners of his eyes. The energy under Sehun’s hand is buzzing now, and Sehun can almost see the gears in Chanyeol’s mind turning, little imagined shocks of static electricity humming through the air around him. “Knocking over one of those would be hard to ignore.”
Sehun almost laughs. The sound is on the tip of his tongue, because Chanyeol is joking, he has to be, only the noises coming from Jongin’s DS have stopped suddenly. Sehun can see the look in Jongin’s eyes — the one that’s all blackened and curled around the edges, a piece of paper held against a flame — and the laughter turns grainy, chalk in his mouth. Because Chanyeol’s jokes are always like electric shocks, bright, tickling and almost painful, but they’re never like this, never like fire.
“It might be fun,” Chanyeol goes on, rolling over and reaching a hand up to touch Jongin’s thigh. Sehun wonders if Jongin can feel the little bits of fire too, the scrape of the tinder of Chanyeol’s skin, almost like excitement or sincerity, or if he’s made that up. “Something we could do for ourselves. No one telling us what to do, or who to be. We could call the shots.”
Jongin’s lips are red, but he licks them anyway, suddenly seeming breathless next to Sehun, as though he’s been kicked in the stomach or just run a mile.
“What if we did?” he says, threading his fingers through Chanyeol’s, and Sehun tries to imagine Jongin’s hand wrapped around the handle of a gun instead. Chanyeol laughs, bright like silver, like lightening, and Chanyeol has always, always been so bright when he wants to be, electric, magnetic, and Sehun can’t help but want to follow.
Sehun’s never been sure whether it was the same for Jongin, whether he was the follower or the leader when it came to Chanyeol, but he can see it in Jongin’s eyes, the way their infamy could become immortality, the three of them together, forever.
“What if we did?” Sehun echoes, and Chanyeol grabs his hand too, presses his lips to Sehun’s wrist as though he wants to taste Sehun’s pulse, the metallic iron of Sehun’s blood, on his tongue.
And Jongin’s stare is still burning, like hope, like horizons slicing the orange of the sun in half, juice spilling out across the clouds, and Sehun feels his concerns crumbling into the blaze, the same way ashes turn to ashes and dust into dust.
Sehun has always known Jongin, first babies, then children, then teenagers together. One life in two bodies.
Jongin, who has always felt too much and never seemed to have enough from anyone else, takes love, but doesn’t know how to give it. It’s yet another way he seems to take after his father — except Sehun doesn’t think that’s fair, because Jongin’s father is never cruel, just distracted, not around enough to focus on his son for one moment, a man never much in the way of showing feelings.
After his mother is gone, Jongin doesn’t withdraw — he’d been a withdrawn child before. Instead, his moods become more extreme, flipping through emotions like a deck of cards, each hand as violent and valid as the last, but Jongin hates himself for it, it’s not what his mother would have wanted, and so sometimes Jongin smoothes himself out, flips, flops, a heart masquerading as a spade.
His father takes him on trips, ones he has to go on for business, and Sehun sees them for what they are, attempts at trying to remind Jongin that he still has one parent, a try at being a family, but Jongin thinks of them as imprisonment, long stretches of time where he’s deprived of his friends, of anything like air.
While he’s gone, Sehun and Chanyeol are left together. Chanyeol is twelve, he’s what Sehun wants to be, to be grown up, and if Jongin hadn’t captured Sehun’s attention so completely, he would have been enamored with Chanyeol. The brightness of his personality is only dimmed by the shadow of his mother, always hovering on the fringes of their time together, like a storm cloud, but they are pushed together enough that Chanyeol begins to feel familiar, the warmth of his shoulder against Sehun’s. His presence doesn’t cover up Jongin’s absence, the lonely chill of Sehun’s right side still clawing at his chest, but having Chanyeol on his left, holding him up and blazing away, a tiny sun, is enough for him to get by.
Chanyeol’s older sister Yura gets married when Sehun is in high school, and the wedding is an explosion of white, a snow flurry in June. Sehun goes to represent the rest of his family, shirt buttoned all the way up to his throat and hair slicked back from his forehead. He knows he probably looks like something out of a magazine and keeps his mouth flat and smooth for the pictures. Cold, beautiful, and puzzling. Like this, Sehun is so much more and so much less than sixteen years old.
Jongin is away in Hong Kong with his father, the trips having been a constant throughout their teenage years, and Sehun can feel the emptiness, where he usually fits into Jongin’s side, prickling at his skin underneath the expensive material of his suit. The feeling dims when he catches sight of Chanyeol’s smile in the crowd of people that fill the garden where the reception is being held.
“There you are,” Chanyeol says, curling a hand around Sehun’s waist to rest in the small of his back. Sehun feels his mouth curve up a little and he relaxes without thinking, sinking into Chanyeol’s side. Belonging.
“This is…” Sehun tries, looking around at the fluffs of white tool on the chairs, spills of white flowers down the columns that surround the bandstand and dance floor. The whole reception is a wash of white, blinding Sehun, and Yura and her new husband at the center of it.
Chanyeol’s face darkens slightly at the sight, a cloud passing over the sun. “Yeah.” His grip tightens on Sehun’s waist, touch making Sehun shiver like it’s a static shock. “I’m glad you’re here, Sehun,” he says, looking at Sehun like he’s never seen anything so beautiful, like he never wants to look away.
Jongin is longing, want for things Sehun can’t even name spilling over the edges of their relationship, and it’s been that way for as long as Sehun can remember.
But Sehun is sixteen and is beginning to learn that Chanyeol is electric and addicting.
It’s something like this:
Chanyeol is life, winding up inside and bursting at the seams, and Sehun is glad he’s here too.
The girl that confesses to Sehun is pretty, peach-blossom cheeks and chocolate hair, and Sehun listens quietly as she professes her feelings to him in one of the empty stairwells of their school.
Jongin is waiting for him just outside the door, hands in his jacket pockets. “Is your whole life actually a manhwa?” he asks jokingly, referring to the girls confession and probably also Sehun’s strangely pink cheeks.
Sehun laughs and shakes his head, bumping his right shoulder into Jongin’s left. Comfortable.
“Besides, you can’t date her.” Jongin says it matter-of-factly, swinging his arm so his hand brushes Sehun’s before pulling away, leaving space between them as they walk. “You love me.”
Sehun had told the girl he would give her an answer tomorrow, that he needed to think about it. Secretly, he wanted to be able to savor the feeling of being liked, of being told someone else has feelings for him, but in the end, he’ll always end up saying no, waiting instead for the next brush of Jongin’s hand against his.
Sehun’s uncle, his father’s younger brother, once tells him that being a second son is the best life there is, blessed with money and status, but without the eventual price tag of expectations.
“You’ll never be chained to an office desk and told what you’re good for,” his uncle says, ruffling Sehun’s hair. Sehun is eleven and more interested in leveling up in the new video game Jongin gave him for his birthday than he is in his future.
Years later, though, Sehun is seventeen and listless, his life floating around like a boat missing its rudder and sail. Being the second son, he thinks, is to be adrift, to know without being told that you’re good for nothing.
Someday, when this is all over and the reporters get ahold of it, people will probably say it stemmed from the lack of a present role model, from those infantilized daddy issues that their shrinks used to prattle on about during sessions paid for by their parents.
Jongin had been sent to a special one after his mother’s death and afterwards, he told Sehun he hadn’t said a word, no matter how many questions the man had asked, until he said something about his father, and then Jongin had simply sat and screamed until his throat was raw. The man had sat there in shock, and Jongin, ten years old and motherless, had remembered to behave himself, slipped off the couch and thanked him for listening.
Their fathers are all the same, workaholics that amount to nothing more than ghosts at the head of family dinner tables most nights, and the sinkhole left by their absence is filled with a trust fund and a credit card, while the ectoplasm of fatherly wisdom repeats the old adage that nothing comes for free, that the price of money is happiness, in trying to acquire it or letting it slip through gilded fingers. But that’s nothing new.
No, Sehun thinks, it’s more like this:
Sehun’s mother isn't around, just like his father, mired in her own social life, and Sehun doesn’t think he misses her very much, even if he’s never gotten to know her. Jongin’s mother is gone too, having passed away when he was ten, and every year, the distance between Jongin and his father gapes wider and wider, like a sucking chest wound. It’s just as gruesome to watch, seeing how relationships can tear as easily as skin, as easy as paper, air molecules ripping apart in a sonic boom. Chanyeol’s mother is the opposite, a try-hard that pries into every facet of his life, and all the pressure and attention has left him tightly wound, laugh growing louder over the years to block out her questions about schoolwork and girlfriends.
"Someday," Jongin laughs, and his face is almost skeletal in the glow of the headlights, just like the mask he wears in the banks, and Sehun shivers and doesn't know why, "they'll ask how we did it, taking and not caring about what happened afterwards, and we'll tell them it was easy."
Chanyeol’s mother has a whisper meant for the stage, and Sehun can hear it around the corner as he makes his way back to Chanyeol’s bedroom from the restroom.
“He’ll never amount to anything,” she’s hissing. “He may come from a good family but he’s not a good friend for you.”
Chanyeol’s silence is sullen, and Sehun waits, shifting on the balls of his feet.
His mother sighs. “You think you’ll have a successful career with people like that surrounding you? If you really want it, Chanyeol, you’ll drop dead weight like him and move on.”
The words sting, and Sehun fists his fingers into his shirt to stay quiet.
“I don’t want it,” Chanyeol snaps, not even bothering to whisper. “I’ve told you a hundred times and you never listen! I don’t want to be a politician and I don’t want to save face and don’t want friends I can use and who use me — I don’t want any of it so just leave me alone!”
Sehun’s ears ring a little. It’s not often that he hears people yell, and Chanyeol is loud to begin with.
“Well,” Chanyeol’s mother says finally, “don’t forget you’ve got tutoring this afternoon. You’ll never get the test scores to make it into our goal universities without it.”
She passes Sehun in the hallway on her way out, face pinched tight like she’s swallowed a lemon.
“Hello Mrs. Park,” Sehun says, as politely as possible, because even if he’ll never amount to anything, he can at least do this. “You look lovely today.”
“Yes, well.” Her mouth purses tighter, and Sehun can see the lines on her face, the pinscrapes surrounding her lips. He thinks she looks old. “Tell your mother I say hello.”
Sehun nods, even though the last time he saw his own mother was across the room at a dinner party she’d thrown three weeks ago at their house, and walks into Chanyeol’s room.
Sunlight is pouring in through the windows, and Chanyeol is sitting on his couch with his head in his hands.
“Hey,” Sehun says, sitting down next to him, and nestling into his side with his chin on Chanyeol’s shoulder. Chanyeol drops one of his hands onto Sehun’s knee and Sehun takes the opportunity to press his nose into Chanyeol’s hair. Chanyeol smells like citrus and warm sunlight, and even though his shoulders are still tense, he squeezes Sehun’s leg affectionately and leans into him, not letting go.
If Jongin has loved anyone, it’s his mother. Sehun is never sure why, even back when he’s young, six years old and at Jongin’s birthday party, watching as Jongin’s mother, beautiful but distant, smoothed her son’s hair down and told him he must behave well for his guests.
She had been pale, everything about her washed out, as though she was reflected back into people’s eyes through the planes of a diamond, and Sehun wonders if that’s what Jongin loved about her. For someone like him, who, even as a child, wore his emotions without the protective layer of skin, veins and muscles and bones laid bare, to live like her, understated, contained and never, ever, too much, must have looked like the ideal, like relief.
To never know someone in color is to put them on a pedestal, and it isn’t long until she fades away, like fog over a river, Jongin’s idea of perfection, and it’s like this:
Sehun is nine and he is standing in front of a photo of Jongin’s mother at the funeral. Jongin looks small in his suit, paler than usual, like his mother had been, but it is even more apparent that he’s the spitting image if his father as the two stand side-by-side. Chanyeol is there too, twelve years old and not yet grown into his large eyes and ears.
None of them cry.
Things haven’t always been this way. Except maybe they have, and Sehun’s only ever been too happy to go along with whatever, happy to be whoever as long as he could fit into the spaces left for him against Jongin’s side.
It’s like this:
Sehun is fifteen and riding with Jongin in his new car, a birthday gift given with a card signed by Jongin’s father’s secretary, and Jongin steps on the clutch, shifts up gear and he's going too fast, each turn driving Sehun’s heart further up into his throat, but Jongin is happy and when he reaches up to open the sunroof, wind lapping at his hair as he laughs, Sehun thinks he might be in love.
Or maybe it’s like when Sehun is sixteen, and it’s Jongin’s seventeenth birthday, after the big party where Jongin had smoothed down his own hair and behaved for his father’s guests. He, Sehun and Chanyeol are out on the balcony attached to Jongin’s room, both Chanyeol and Jongin a hundred times more careless now that they’re alone and Sehun is content to rest in the space between them.
“I can’t believe you assholes didn’t get me anything for my birthday,” Jongin says, leaning against the railing. It’s a long way down, long enough that a fall would really hurt, if anyone cared to try.
Chanyeol laughs, loud and low, rocking his chair back on two legs. “What would we even get you that you don’t already have?”
Jongin licks his lips, and Sehun is reminded of when they had first kissed, Jongin pressing him into the cold wall of their school bathroom, and how warm his tongue had been, how Sehun had felt like his heart was bursting at the contact.
Chanyeol is nineteen, in his first year at university, and he’s grown into his body finally, legs long, so long and thin, as he lets the chair fall forward onto all four legs. Sehun’s thought about it before, once or twice, how Chanyeol would look over him, what his mouth would taste like, but then there had been things with Jongin, and there’s no way he could have them both —
Looking at them, Jongin steps away from the railing. Sehun’s skin feels hot, as if he’s flushed from drinking (only he hasn’t had a drop tonight, not in front of the guests), and there is something in the shape of Jongin’s mouth that’s reflected back in Chanyeol’s grin that has his stomach swooping and his throat clicking as he swallows.
“I can think of something,” Jongin says, but there’s a tremulous movement in his jaw that betrays the cool veneer that he’s put on, nervousness or maybe actual, real wanting. Jongin’s feelings have always been too big to fit into the tiny box he’s been put in. “Only if you want to give it to me, though. It’s not something I can take.”
Chanyeol glances at Sehun, and Sehun feels reckless, like Jongin driving his car too fast around every curve, standing too close to the edge of the balcony or earlier, during the party, when he’d walked too near to the edge of his family’s pool, and so Sehun lets himself smile, the heat spreading and pooling in his belly.
They fit better than Sehun might have thought, things he knows, like the wetness of Jongin’s mouth, the tiny sounds that leave his throat, mixing with things that he doesn’t know, like Chanyeol’s hands on his waist, the weight of him pressing Sehun further into Jongin, and the vibrations of his ribcage against Sehun’s back as Jongin reaches around to slip his hand into Chanyeol’s pants.
And later, pressed between them, skin hot and two heartbeats flying away against his own, never quite in sync, it’s like Sehun finally, finally feels something.
“Don’t frown like that,” Sehun’s mother says, jewels glinting from her ears as she turns to speak to him. “It’ll give you wrinkles.”
They’re at a benefit for his father’s business and Sehun’s hair is gelled back from his face, understated and elegant, just like the cut of his suit. He is fourteen and has never spared a thought for growing old.
In front of them, Sehun’s older brother stands with their father, shaking hands with important businessmen and smiling. He’s being groomed to take over the business, was born for it, but time has not worn well for him, fine lines sitting heavily around his mouth and the corners of his eyes. Sehun can’t remember what his brother looked like before, when he was young, or when he got so old.
The businessmen’s eyes flick back to look at Sehun and his mother, a famous beauty in their social circle, their stares too smooth, like the slide of credit card plastic between fingers.
Sehun smiles, but never too much. Never enough to crease his cheeks.
Sehun is seventeen, and so is Jongin, and they’re doing what they always do on the anniversary of the day Jongin’s mother died (at least for the past few years anyway), getting drunk together after Jongin gets back from the cemetery with his father, suit collar still stiff around his neck as his hands grasp the neck of a bottle too tight.
“She wasn’t very old, you know,” Jongin says. Chanyeol’s skipped classes to be with them today, appearing at the door with alcohol in hand a few hours before and now they’re all crammed together on the couch that overlooks Jongin’s balcony, Jongin lying across their laps and the cushions as they toe the line between pleasantly buzzed and flat-out drunk. “Maybe it was good she died young. People remember her that way.” Jongin takes another drink, liquid bubbling within the glass of the bottle. “I do, anyway.”
“I can’t imagine your mother any older,” Chanyeol says, always so tactless when it’s just the three of them. He raises his own bottle as if in a toast. “Forever young, Mrs. Kim. More than any woman could ever hope for.”
Jongin smiles a bit at that, but Sehun thinks the rims of his eyes look red, like he’s about to cry. Jongin’s head is resting in Sehun’s lap and Sehun smooths his hair down with a soft hand. Jongin leans into it, lashes fluttering shut, as though he’s remembering something.
“What if we died tomorrow?”
There’s something in Jongin’s voice Sehun pretends it isn’t hope and he combs his finger through Jongin’s hair some more, dark strands slipping through his fingers, and answers, “What if we did?”
“Don’t think your father would like that very much,” Chanyeol says, toying with the hem of Jongin’s pants on the other end of the couch. Always in motion, always fiddling with something. Sehun is glad that Chanyeol is here.
“My father,” Jongin starts, but the rest of the sentence is lost inside the mouth of the bottle.
Sehun isn’t afraid of time, exactly. It would be a silly fear of something inevitable, like how the years pass and Jongin goes through car after car, each one newer, younger, a smoother drive than the last.
It’s more like this: he marks time off, tallies the years and days and seconds in his head, and waits for them to show on his face. Waits for the moment when he becomes less than timeless.
The first bank is easy. A holdup at a place like this has probably never even occurred to most people and the first shots Chanyeol fires into the air, loud in the high-ceilinged room, send everyone diving for the floor.
They've talked it over some, and Jongin walks up to one of the tellers like they planned, smiling charmingly through the mouth hole of his mask, and tells her to put the money in the bag or he'll blow her fucking head off. Chanyeol laughs when Jongin says it, deceptively sweet, and watches the rest of the bank patrons, gun pointed directly at the security guard just in case. Sehun’s job is to watch the doors, making sure no one enters, and look out for the police. One of the men on the floor near the entrance moves, reaching into his pocket for something, but freezes when he looks up to find Sehun aiming right between his eyes. His hands are not shaking.
Sehun is eighteen and he is wearing a mask, robbing a bank, and he is calm.
It takes a little over five minutes, not long enough for the police to arrive, and Jongin’s smile as they jump back in the car is fiercely brilliant, like a hundred suns, Chanyeol’s hair twisting in the wind as he tears his mask off with a wild laugh, and in that one second, Sehun thinks maybe he’s feeling everything there is.
“Never thought we’d end up on this side of the law,” Sehun says the evening after their first robbery, and it’s almost a joke, except that it isn’t because it’s too real, and now there’s no going back. The concrete is cold underneath him. Chanyeol is probably smart for finding something else to sit on, even as Jongin lounges against the front of his car.
“There’s no ‘this’ or ‘that’ side of the law,” Chanyeol says after a moment. “The law is full of shit.”
Chanyeol’s mother wants him to be a politician, someone big and important enough to have his face on a postage stamp. It makes Sehun think of the picture of Chanyeol that sits on his family’s mantel, hair properly combed back to cover his protruding ears, and his smile just as wide as it needs to be, not enough to make his eyes narrow, and the flash of the camera has made his skin shine a little. To Sehun, he always looked like a wax figure in that picture, and that’s the type of son his mother wants, a doll fit for a museum.
Chanyeol is not a doll, not even close. Too pretty to be made of porcelain, eyes too bright to be glass, and he’s always in motion, leg jiggling against a chair, fingers twisting together, making strange shapes in his lap, teeth biting at his lips.
It’s different, with Chanyeol. When Sehun was fifteen, he had thought it was just Jongin, that it would only ever be Jongin, even before he knew whether Jongin would let him. Jongin is magnetic, Sehun could never resist his pull, but Chanyeol draws him in differently, like the warmth of a fire in the chill of the first frost of the season, and Sehun wants to be near, to catch Chanyeol’s warmth like he’s hungry for it, like it’s sunlight and Sehun’s been trapped underground.
“There’s only us,” Chanyeol says, and he smiles at Sehun, almost too wide, eyes bright in the glint of the headlights.
“Us,” Jongin says, and his nails scrape as he drags them across the back of Sehun’s neck, raising goosebumps. His other hand moves to rest on Chanyeol’s knee, and if possible, Chanyeol’s smile grows even wider. Sehun feels drawn in again, sinking into Chanyeol’s smile, Jongin’s touch as he continues, “Or them.”
They don’t hide, their only precaution paying for everything in cash and dumping their cell phones, and they spend the days lazing about in fancy hotel suites, up high above the streets.
“Are we really doing this because of your father?” Chanyeol asks one afternoon, and it’s a question Sehun hasn’t wanted to ask, because he already knows the answer. He thinks Chanyeol knows it too, always smarter and more perceptive than people give him credit for, but he wants to hear Jongin say it.
“My father — “ Jongin starts, syllables stumbling out of his mouth, and it’s like there are more words, stuck in the back of his throat, waiting to finish the sentence, but nothing comes, and Sehun thinks that there are all kinds of hate — the sharp, metallic kind that lingers on your tongue like iron, like blood, the kind that cuts through skin, through your life, and embeds itself into your heart, replacing one of the ventricles as its beat goes on; the slower kind, like the bleeding of ink across paper as it gets soaked in the rain, leaving a dark stain, or the kind that’s like the slower drip of liquid into a bucket until it overflows. The kind that’s like a swimming pool you lower yourself into until your feet miss the bottom and you drown, lungs too full to scream.
There are all kinds of hate, too many to name, but the way Jongin feels about his father is none of them, and Sehun knows because it sits like a stone in his own chest. It’s love.
The glass in Sehun’s hand is purely for show, to make it look like he’s enjoying himself as he talks with one of his father’s business friends. He’s an older man, who looks kindly, but has sharp beady eyes, like a vulture.
“What are your plans for university?” he asks, leaning forward like he’s trying to read the answer off of Sehun’s carefully blank face. “Going to study business at Northwestern like your brother?”
Sehun has honestly never thought about being like his brother, and ponders on the idea of wrinkles from stress lining his face, work changing and aging him.
Then he thinks of other things, like purpose and responsibility, and people he doesn’t even now looking up to him for the things he’s accomplished over the years.
Right now, Sehun is sixteen and he has accomplished nothing, and the sudden knowledge weighs down his shoulders, pulls his stomach towards the ground.
He remembers where he is, though, straightening his spine and tilting his lips up just on the edge of a smile. “It’s a surprise,” he says almost flirtatiously.
But when Sehun looks into his own future and sees nothing but blank space, the uncertainty and fear burrow under his smooth, ageless skin, eating him from the inside out.
Sehun wakes at dawn, slipping from their bed as the fingers of night recede and wrapping himself in a blanket as he looks out the far window. He hears Jongin follow after a few moments, coming to press a sleepy kiss to the back of his neck.
Chanyeol is still asleep, and will be through the sunrise. He prefers sunset, when the brightness of day fades beneath the glare of streetlights, the neon signs turning even the palest skin lurid and making a small smile into a sharp flashing of teeth.
To Sehun, the end of a day is like watching time slip through his fingers, the inevitable finish line he keeps running from moving closer and closer.
The city below them is iced over, colors faint like over-exposed film, and Sehun hopes he looks the same way, distant and pale, a watercolor of understated youth, fit to be hung in a museum.
Jongin is calm like this, when he can stand and watch the stars disappear in the sky, clouds just little bits of soft cotton, and see Sehun’s face colored in greys, cut from the same soft cloth.
“Like this, you remind me of my…” He trails off as the sun breaks over the horizon, bathing everything in vibrancy, and the moment is gone.
He doesn’t have to finish the sentence anyway, because Sehun knows. He knows this Jongin like the back of his hand. Back in his bedroom at home, Jongin still has the same photo of his mother sitting on his bedside table, the colors all muted, as though the print is faded with age. (It isn’t. Sehun remembers that it’s looked that way from the moment it was put in the frame, that that was what Jongin’s mother had looked like when she was alive.)
Sehun thinks of her sometimes, how much Jongin loved her, loves her, even as just a memory. Forever young, Mrs. Kim, Chanyeol had said. Fit to be idealized, for Jongin to love, and there are moments, sharp and painful like citrus in a wound, that Sehun wishes he could be too.
The last time Sehun sees his grandfather, his hands are withered, like the skins of raisins, and Sehun cringes at the feel of them when he grips Sehun’s chin to get a better look at him.
“You’re young,” he says, the skin of his crumpled parchment hands scraping at Sehun’s jaw. “Pretty.”
Sehun is thirteen, and old people, true elders, make him feel skittish, nervous. He’s not sure if his grandfather means it as a compliment or an insult, so he remains quiet.
“It won’t last,” he continues, hand dropping away from Sehun’s face, and Sehun lets himself breathe again, small little inhales, never too much. “Growing up means growing old. Someday you’ll be just like me, just like how I was once like you, eh?”
Sehun’s grandfather is a handsome man, hair full and silver, and his mouth still colored against his skin, but Sehun cannot imagine him young again.
“Maybe we’ll meet in the middle,” he says, taking out a cigarette and lighting it. He laughs then, a cracking, grinding sound, like the start of an antique car, and Sehun jumps, glad that their visit to his uncle’s house is almost over.
On the ride back, Sehun pulls at his clothes, the knit of his sweater stretching so he can press it to his nose. At first he thinks it’s smoke from his grandfather’s cigarette, but it isn’t.
It’s the smell of dust, of the passage of time.
Sehun with Jongin is like that science experiment with two magnets. Turned one way they repel, but flipped, they are almost inseparable. Jongin always seems to feel things too deeply, chest open and heart visible, bloody and beating within the bars of his ribs, while Sehun is left feeling numb, like he was bathed in ice water at birth and his nerves never warmed up again. Sometimes the difference makes them clash and others, it balances them out.
Sehun with Chanyeol and Jongin is like three sides of the same coin. Chanyeol is the metal that holds the faces together when they threaten to flake and fall away, bright smiles and warm hands. The problem is that when their coin gets flipped, when things get left to chance, Sehun feels like he’s the one that ends up pressed against the ground.
The break begins to happen like this:
“You’re so blank,” Jongin says, the sound tearing out of his throat painfully, and Sehun knows this Jongin, all bright colors and pungent smells and extremes, joy, rage, grief. “I hate it.”
Chanyeol knows this Jongin too, and Sehun thinks sometimes that they are alike in this, too open, too naked, always too much, and Jongin cares for Chanyeol because of it, some kind of twisted camaraderie.
It’s the day Jongin’s mother died, and Jongin’s drunk, feelings pouring out like his chest cavity has been split open, so Sehun and Chanyeol can hear his soul crying out in time with the beats of his heart. They both know when Jongin is like this, he hates everything.
Moments before, a drunken Jongin had said Sehun reminded him of his mother. Sehun wasn’t able to tell if it was a compliment or an insult, so he hadn’t said anything.
“It’s like you’re a statue in a museum and I’m not allowed to touch you,” he reaches out, past Chanyeol’s grip holding him back, and Sehun doesn’t flinch, doesn’t do anything. “Say something,” Jongin cries, face twisting and wet with unnoticed tears. Sehun has never cried like that, and he wonders if that’s why Jongin cares for him, some kind of twisted envy. He beats his fists on Sehun’s chest. “Say anything! Do anything, please — “
Jongin stumbles over his own foot, struggling to be free from Chanyeol’s restraining arms, falls, and Sehun catches him. Jongin’s pulse is flying through his veins, life sprinting just on the edge of his skin.
Sehun is eighteen to Jongin’s nineteen, but he’s taller, wrapped around Jongin with Chanyeol on the other side, and as Jongin’s tears wet his shirt, Sehun is wrung out, old, like an unwound clock.
Chanyeol’s eyes dance in the light of the headlights as they get out of the car, money from the bank stuffed inside duffle-bags and slung over their shoulders. It’s as if Sehun is watching them from outside his own body, and he can feel them spinning out of control like a car skidding in the snow.
Sometimes, it seems as if Jongin thinks they’ll live forever, and when they all lie together, the three of them in one bed with their limbs so tangled it’s hard to know who’s in the middle, he talks about how things will be in the future, when this is all over.
They’ll move somewhere, he says, maybe somewhere in Europe, and go to school together, no parents, no families, no worries. Once they’ve burned everyone’s expectations to the ground, Jongin says, and Chanyeol’s arms tighten around Sehun’s waist. It’s too hot, too warm underneath the covers, but Sehun doesn’t want to risk moving and shattering the atmosphere Jongin’s built up with his words.
Once there’s nothing for them to come back to, Jongin says, fingers walking up and down the arm Chanyeol has slung over Sehun, then they’ll leave for good.
It’s easier to believe when they have the masks on, the metal of the gun warming against his palm during their second robbery. There’s a power in taking, but the bigger rush comes from the joy in Jongin’s voice as he tears apart his own inheritance, his father’s banks, with his bare hands, and the way Chanyeol laughs too loud behind his mask, as if he wants everyone to know he’s a part of it too.
He’d never be allowed to become a politician then, Sehun realizes. That’s why Chanyeol is here. But the only thing Sehun would lose if he took off his mask would be his anonymity. His parents would probably buy his way out of any legal trouble and Sehun would be stuck at home again, the tall windows of their penthouse the walls of his gilded cage.
The rubber of the mask is suffocating, and Chanyeol has to grab him by his collar when they move to leave because it’s like his chest is folding in on itself, creases in origami not meant for skin and bones. He rips the mask off once they’re in the car, Jongin’s foot on the gas pedal as they speed away and bills fly out the windows just like in those old heist movies.
“What the hell was that?” Chanyeol wants to know, craning around in the front passenger seat to look at him.
Sehun stares down at the rubber in his hands, eerie baby-faced mask staring back up at him, eyes empty gashes in its surface, and his throat is too dry to swallow, too parched to say a word.
“Leave it,” Jongin says, hand on the gear shift as he takes a corner too fast, tires squealing on the pavement, and Sehun’s stomach rolls, because the recklessness inside of him is starting to feel foreign, like it’s not his own.
“Pull over,” Sehun says, after countless minutes of trying to keep the vomit down. “I’m gonna be sick.”
He thinks he might see Chanyeol roll his eyes as Sehun scrambles out of the car, emptying his stomach on the side of the highway. Eventually, all that’s left is bile, and the squirming feeling is still there, but Sehun straightens up anyway, wiping at his mouth.
Behind him, Jongin and Chanyeol are leaning against the car and into each other, Chanyeol’s hand teasingly pushing up Jongin’s shirt so he can touch the skin above where his gun rests, and Jongin is laughing, cheeks flushed.
“You okay there, champ?” Chanyeol calls after a few seconds of Sehun staring, and Sehun tries to swallow the awful taste in his mouth, much less like bile and more like blood. They’re standing so close that their hips brush and there’s no room for Sehun in between.
There are all kinds of love, watery and viscous and everything in between, and the way Sehun feels about Jongin is like the mixing of paint. Red mixing with purple and yellow, love with sadness and longing, and then green jealousy dripping in. It burns with the neon of Chanyeol’s smile, staining the whole thing black as it swirls inside of him, sticky, slow and suffocating, and Sehun loves, oh, he loves so much he feels heavy with it.
As they lie there together at night in the hotel bed, his insides feel coated with it, the black paint crackling as it hardens and dries, until Sehun feels like a piece of old oil canvas, waiting for the right moment to fall to shreds. Next to him, Jongin is motionless and fragile in sleep, breath brushing the smooth skin of Chanyeol’s face, and Sehun wonders if maybe the wind will come and break them into pieces, flakes that drift apart on the open arms of the air.
Sehun is eighteen, barely an adult, no longer a child, and he wonders if he’s pushed his luck too soon, and now he’s paying the price, aging before his time — drying out and falling apart.
Jongin’s car calls attention to them, streamlined blue frame like a calling card as two banks becomes three, and Sehun sees his own face on the news one night.
Jongin’s is there too, and Chanyeol’s, and Chanyeol laughs, bright and jarring, at their pictures on the screen.
“We look good,” he says, half joking, but his arms are tight around both their shoulders, like he’s afraid they might slip away. “It’s lucky, because those pictures are public record now. They’ll be around forever.”
The one of Sehun is his school picture, just like Jongin’s, but the color of his jacket seems more pastel, closer to the dyed blond of his hair. Only his eyes look dark, pink mouth hovering across the edge of a smile, and he looks young, timeless. His own rendition of the Mona Lisa.
Jongin grabs at Sehun’s fingers, playing with them over Chanyeol’s lap, feeling the bones under his flesh, and Sehun wonders if Jongin’s father saw, whether he noticed the way Jongin so desperately wants him to. Sehun hopes so, because the look in Jongin’s eyes in the photo is dark and bright at the same time, a little too much like self-destruction.
The end is like this:
The more Sehun thinks Jongin is pulling away from him, the more he thinks about why Chanyeol wanted to do this in the first place, the more time he spends staring at his reflection in hotel mirrors, watching himself age.
This bank, their fourth so far, makes Sehun nervous. It’s meant to be high-class, with marble floors and gold-leafed molding. Half the walls are glass, only little brass handles to indicate where the entrances are, and Sehun feels exposed, heart in his throat and the rubber of the mask threatening to suffocate him again.
Chanyeol and Jongin don’t seem bothered by it, though, if Chanyeol’s charged laughter from behind his clown mask is anything to go by, and Jongin tends to feed off that noise, like kindling in a fire. There’s no stopping them now.
Their recklessness had been contagious when this started out, but now there’s something growing in Sehun’s chest, meshed up cobwebs of fear spanning the spaces in his ribcage.
Sehun’s back is turned to the doors, gun trained on the bank’s security guard, when suddenly, it’s like this:
The glass windows explode inwards, the sound of shattering mixing with the screams of a few of the tellers and the shouting of the armed men running through the shards.
Ears ringing, Sehun can’t make out what they’re saying, but he stumbles backwards as he turns, one arm coming up to protect his face from the glass. The floor breaks his fall painfully, elbow cracking against the surface and the impact makes his hand clench, bullet shooting out of the chamber, towards the broken windows.
The kickback of the gun stings up Sehun’s arm and he hears the man’s pained shout as though it’s through water, muffled and foamy. He thinks he can hear Jongin and Chanyeol’s voices too, but everything is drowned out by the bang of another gunshot. Sehun’s breath hitches, heart stutters beneath his ribs, the muscle pumping out of time.
Pain. All the nerves in his body singing one long note that turns into a scream. They feel everything.
Through the holes in his mask, Sehun can see the blood soaking a circle into his shirt and spilling out to stain the marble floor scarlet. Love, Sehun thinks, dipping shaking fingers into the blood, like undiluted red paint.
There are hands on his face, a skeleton staring down at him as his baby-faced mask pulled away, but he still can’t breathe. Sehun is adrift, and he can’t find Jongin, or Chanyeol, can’t find anyone. The noise around him is eaten up by a wave of water, vision washed blurry with salt and chest crushed under the weight. Sehun is a flower, dried out and pressed flat between two pages, a butterfly, pinned and hung on a wall. Timeless, beauty preserved forever.
Sehun is eighteen, will always be eighteen now, and he doesn't feel anything.