Title: Fragmentation (Everything Is Different In Retrospect Remix)
Pairings: gen (Siwon/Hangeng friendship)
Length: 2618 words
Summary: Every phone call felt like an anchor into the past, a promise that things weren't really lost, and that with every phone call, they could go back. Siwon, Hangeng, and the fragmentation of Super Junior.
Remixee author: kingdra
Title of work you remixed: promise to the end
Link to work you remixed: http://prettyquills.livejournal.com/48873.html
So many people crowd the Beijing airport that Hangeng cannot get out of his car. Or, rather: he isn't prepared to act out a tearful reunion with the band he is currently still disentangling himself from. This is what he says, anyway, on the phone when Siwon calls him in the dead hours of morning.
"Maybe next time," Hangeng says through the phone. Siwon taps his fingers against the arm of the chair in the dark, empty hotel lobby. Through the phone it is as though they are not in the same city at all.
"We'll get to see each other soon, anyway," Siwon replies, but he's got questions anaesthetizing his heart, and he thinks, will we?
"Soon," Hangeng says. Siwon hangs up the phone and the past turns itself inside out.
Hangeng shed Hankyung so quietly sometimes Siwon wonders if it was a part he was reading in a script.
They were standing out in the parking lot, their breath fogging in the early morning chill, the sky still dark. Siwon had been up since four and Hankyung since four thirty and they were waiting for the van that carried them from spotlight to spotlight.
Hankyung said it this way: "I think—I'm sorry, Siwon. But—things have to change."
And a hand clenched around Siwon's heart, but he said nothing, pretended he didn't understand. Maybe this was his first big mistake. They climbed into the van and Siwon sat watching Hankyung (Hangeng) watch Beijing, his eyes glazed over, his hands clasped in his lap. And still Siwon said nothing, the fear in his throat.
Much later he picked up the phone and left a message: "Merry Christmas, hyung. I miss you." He didn't really know what to say after that. Three weeks later Hangeng called him back.
[Siwon has learned many things over the years, and they got into his blood, as natural as prayer. He learned that he can't fix his hyungs, no matter how he wants to. He learned that his hyungs do not like—do not want—to see him cry. He learned that he will wait for his hyungs as long as they need him to. This was what he fixed in his expression when he stepped on stage with the weight of the lawsuit on his shoulders, feeling that this decision of Hangeng's was his own failure. He stood on stage with his brave face because this was what Hangeng needed from him now: the wounds he cut into the group hidden by the smoke of performance.]
"I’m not the leader," Siwon said, apologetically, trying to get something across over the phone. Something but what. Hangeng breathed.
"You’ll be a better leader than I was," Hangeng said, the sound of wind heavy over his voice. Siwon shook his head, as though he could see him—
"I'll never be the leader you were," he said. When he counted up his flaws, he knew—he wasn't the oldest (even by technicalities) and his Mandarin wasn't the best and, after all, he knew the group well enough to guess that they were all secretly rehearsing their goodbyes. Siwon thought about telling Hangeng this, the conversations he and Donghae were having about this life of theirs that had nearly overextended itself. But he kept quiet, and this might have been pride, by silence refusing to admit to Hangeng that things fell apart after him.
"China’s too foreign without you," Siwon said instead. Hangeng laughed.
"Won’t hurt you."
By then there had been comeback stages and dramas, and Siwon could pretend through the safety of the telephone that the years weren't dwindling down. Heechul was smiling and flirting with the Wonder Girls and Kangin was in the army and Super Junior had picked itself back up out of the dust, and sometimes, it was almost like Hankyung never was.
Hangeng picks Siwon up just after sunset and drives them down to a string of bars and overpriced restaurants filled with rich foreigners and the local music scene. They are something like irrelevant, there. They fall in step with one another and the conversation comes easily with a drink. He seems happy. Siwon selfishly wishes he didn't.
After they leave, Hangeng takes the car flying down the streets. He is reckless and changed in a way Siwon didn't expect, so Siwon is careful with his words—"Hyung, slow down," he says, letting the words break like a wave. The streets are silent. They pass a taxi. Hangeng slows down, some, then curses and Chinese and grins.
"When did you get like this?" Hangeng laughs, running through a light. The pass darkened buildings. A Muslim grocery store. A hotel. They drift through the city.
"Do you miss us?" Siwon asks. Hangeng is silent.
After a moment, he laughs. "It’s too late," he says in Mandarin. "I can't process."
He's lying but it doesn't matter, really.
Siwon nearly admitted it to Shindong and Heechul, when they were all a bit drunk, but he figured they knew anyway, because of course he kept in touch with Hangeng, of course he held onto his best friend with all that he could.
Of course Siwon called Hangeng in the early morning from his car, sunlight slowly overtaking the city. Siwon would flip open his phone, ignoring the thought bitter as bile that he was losing his brother to China and celebrity and the awful reality of present-tense.
As in: at present Hangeng is not a part of Super Junior.
Siwon listened to the ring and wondered if today was the day he would call and Hangeng wouldn't answer. That was the day Siwon knew the resentment he saw in the others wasn't in him. Siwon would love without demand, watching Hangeng's performances on his laptop, comparing the articles about the lawsuit with the whispered conversations of the management—and it didn't matter. Siwon would call until Hangeng did not pick up, and then Siwon would wait.
[What Siwon would say, but doesn't have the words, or at least the eloquence, to say it, is that Hangeng forced a band of overgrown boys to become men. He and Kangin acted in the restless, furious discontent that eats at all of them under the skin—discontent at the futility of prolonging five years, six years spent pretending to be young and talented while you catch three colds one after the other and take a potentially dangerous cocktail of drugs so that you can go on stage without so much as a sneeze.]
During the first months after Hangeng left Siwon drank for the release. There were people older, more interesting, more successful, more talented than he who liked him and wanted him around, and Siwon liked that. He liked, if he thought about it, feeling apart of something that wasn't eroding away.
He remembered when Super Junior was new, promising, the thirteen of them thrown together. It was always different for Siwon and Hangeng, something built more on equality and temperament and mutual respect, unlike with the others, where it had to be built on proximity and patience. There's value in both but it's the first Siwon gravitated to, Hangeng listening to him talk about God because he respected Siwon enough to listen to him talk about what he loved. Siwon remembered the days when Hangeng had a girlfriend, a Korean girl he met backstage at a variety show, and Siwon thought selfishly that maybe she would have the power to make him stay.
Looking back on the years it is hard not to see Hangeng as a caged bird, singing sweetly to hide the nervous longing for flight, and Siwon listening so willingly to the song.
[Siwon used to take comfort in aloneness, the safety of it. Alone his potential was unlimited, the future was perfect. Aloneness came by choice and not the splintering of brotherhood. Now it reminds him that they have all prolonged something that shouldn't have gone on forever, stretched a good thing too thin. The people he loves, after all, will leave eventually—no, no, he doesn't believe that. Siwon doesn't have time to agonize over these things. He pushes ahead, terrifying as a train hurtling into the dark, filling his life with more people—trying not to wonder what else he could have done to stop (save) Hankyung, or where he went wrong.]
"My favorite part about China?" Hangeng sounded exhausted on the other side of the phone, but not the way he used to. Not the way that used to keep Siwon awake at night, worried. "The food, I guess."
Siwon looked at the script in his lap and then out the window of his room. He couldn't sleep, filled with energy after their concert. Heechul slept soundly in his bed—for once, he was sleeping well—and it felt a bit like betrayal, talking to Hangeng but not waking Heechul up. It had always been the three of them, after all.
"The food?" Siwon asked absently. They were in the same country but that didn't mean much. "That's . . . really moving, hyung."
This is what they talked about. A no-mans zone. Or something like normalcy. Siwon wasn't sure, then. Siwon might have told him about other things, like Jungsu's increasingly manic obsessions with booking schedules, or Donghae's post-break-up depression, but it felt stupid, somehow, to bring any of that up. He'd much rather hear Hangeng happy, anyway.
Hangeng yawned. "The food's good. You know it's good." He said something to someone, too quick for Siwon to catch. "Where are you, right now?" he asked.
"Guangzhou," Siwon replied. Hangeng didn’t respond for a minute.
"It’s Christmas," Hangeng said. "Shouldn’t you be with your family?" The criticism was implicit.
"Aren’t I?" Siwon replied, too tired to stop himself. "But," he continued, apologetic, recasting his words as a joke, "don’t worry, I will be soon."
They said goodbye after that, Siwon wishing Hangeng a merry Christmas as brightly as he could. They'd call a few weeks later and pick up where they left off, Siwon asking him about China, regret lingering in every question. Siwon's regrets—Hangeng's regrets. Their phone calls were an extended apology, and an extended request for an apology, and each call grew shorter and the distance between them longer.
Siwon would contemplate it over a drink—Hangeng was, maybe, something like a traitor, and something unlike it. He remembered how Kyuhyun had called him to say Hankyung's gone and Siwon had reassured him that things would work out, it was for the best, swallowing down his own anger rising in his throat.
Sometimes Siwon drank with Ryeowook because Ryeowook was so composed when drinking, and because he had patience the others didn't have. The bad thing about Ryeowook, though, was that he'd always been good at figuring things out, picking apart each thread and coming to conclusions others were blind to.
"So, you've been talking to Hankyung-hyung. How is he?" Ryeowook said one night. Siwon wondered, briefly, if Ryeowook had been talking to Hangeng too—then again, it could just be that Siwon hadn't bothered to hide Hangeng's album in his car, ordered express from China. That was easy to explain; Siwon was and always would be a supportive dongsaeng, after all.
"I haven't," he insisted, the lie liquor-hot, natural as breathing. Ryeowook began to say something, then he didn't.
When Siwon thinks back on that moment now there's something about it that makes him nervous, makes him wonder which one of his hyungs he'll eventually turn out like, because he's beginning to think it's inevitable, falling apart in the center.
"How is he?" Donghae asks in the dark. Siwon pulls off his shirt and climbs into his bed, pulling the covers up to his neck.
"Different," he responds, watching the sliver of light breaking through the curtains. He wants to close it but he doesn't want to get out of bed. He thinks about getting out of bed and whether it's worth it or not.
"Like how?" Donghae asks. Siwon thinks for a moment that Donghae is still angry at Hangeng. Then he thinks, it's just curiosity—and why didn't Donghae close the curtains all the way in the first place? "Siwon?" Donghae repeats.
"Just—different, I don't know. Good, I guess. You could have come."
"Nevermind," Donghae says. Siwon hears him turn over. Maybe he should have said more, but what? That sometimes when he looked over at Hangeng he saw someone he didn't even recognize, and sometimes he saw the same brother he'd always known?
Siwon watches the lights of the skyline slicing through his window until he falls asleep.
Talking to Hangeng settled Siwon's nerves. If Siwon looked in the mirror he'd see himself growing thin, tired. He talked to Hangeng from Los Angeles, calling from a pier where the wind made it hard for Hangeng to hear him, and he wanted to say something about how America was too big, or maybe that after Hangeng left they were all teetering at the edge of irrelevancy, but that seemed ridiculous, so Siwon said nothing.
Hangeng liked to talk about dumb things Siwon didn't really care about, had never cared about, except that Hangeng felt like talking about them. Sometimes he talked about things Siwon did care about, like his parents or his health. Overall the conversations were so utterly stupid but they felt like an anchor to the past, a promise that things weren't really lost, and that with every phone call, they could go back.
He tried, just once, to imagine what the concert would have been like with Hangeng. Super Show 3—three times the world demanded Super Junior's presence and they screamed and Siwon jumped around like an idiot and grabbed Donghae and Kyuhyun and Eunhyuk in turn around the waist and the crowd screamed even more.
At that time there was something okay about the fluidity of numbers because the core was still there, Siwon was still there—that's what scares him, he thinks, how easily he too could leave.
In Taiwan, when it was only the two of them, Donghae asked Siwon what he thought—was this the way things would be for them, after? Siwon said no. But now he looks back and reconsiders what it means to be part of a fragmented whole. Hangeng made the crack, the crack in the center that grows and grows—but he's not gone, not really, or he doesn't have to be. Siwon smiles and keeps him alive in memory and the fans throw weird pictures onto the stage and Siwon remembers how they'd make Hangeng uncomfortable, sometimes—what is wrong with these girls? He'd ask Siwon like he had any answers—Siwon has so many answers, after all, but he never did have the answer to the question Hangeng asked every day as he suffered, and in the end Hangeng didn't wait for Siwon to figure it out.
The lights seem to shine brighter and the crowd seems to roar louder. Siwon waits while makeup is applied to his face, microphone clipped to him. He hears something in the next room, and when he walks in, he sees Hangeng hugging Zhou Mi tight, Kyuhyun grinning, Donghae with an arm across Hangeng's shoulders, Eunhyuk shouting things in Chinese. It's like before, except that this is Hangeng and not Hankyung, and the pronunciation makes all the difference.
"It’ll never be the same without you," Siwon says as he pushes forward and pulls Hangeng close. "I mean it."
Siwon stands backstage to watch while Hangeng steps out. He will, it seems, always be waiting for his brother to come home. But Siwon believes in Hangeng, and nothing can tear them apart.