Pairing: Luhan-centric, Hunhan
Genre: Romance, Character-centric
Summary: Luhan remembers what it's like to wait.
A/N: I was brutally run over by Luhan emotions. The old airport picture of him all alone, his quote on waiting for something with no guaranteed certainty, his struggles from 2008-2010 lsdkgjlsdgjdlg. One thing led to another and umm, yes. If this sounds like a disjointed mess it's because it is. Think of this as a 2 hour writing exercise. So let's all hold hands and love Luhan because sometimes we forget that there's so much more to the boy than being scouted while shopping at Myeongdong. He has a past and not all of it is happy. ;_____; Translation: LUHAN FEELS PUNCHED ME IN THE OVARIES SO SOMEONE CRY WITH ME.
"Hyung!" Sehun's overeager voice calls from the living room. "Are you ready to go yet?"
Sehun didn't bother taking off his shoes when he waltzed into the M dorm like he owned the place, his sneakers tracking dirt all over the pristine white carpet. If Yixing were here, Sehun would be getting an earful for breaking the strict 'no shoes past the doorway' policy but lucky for him, Yixing isn't home. Luhan gets the feeling that even if he was, the coffee-haired boy would be too excited to care because it's a Friday night and Friday nights are bubble tea nights.
"I'll be out soon!" Luhan laughs as he shoves his other hand into a gray jacket a size too big for his petite frame.
"Would it kill him to wait," Kris grumbles, sprawled across his mattress with a face mask plastered to his cheeks.
Luhan smiles to himself while throwing the hood over his head. It's a smile filled with memories of the past, of bitter tears, and darker places.
He remembers what it's like to wait.
As a linguistics major, languages come easy to Luhan.
He finds it a much better alternative to lose himself in the jumble of letters and consonants, to stumble through meanings and interpretations while sounding out the syllables on his tongue, than to think about the look of disappointment in his parent's eyes when he tells them he wants to study abroad in Korea. When he's drowning in textbooks, the dull ache in his chest goes away. Not everything is useless. Chasing after his dreams will never be useless. In the dark of night, huddled under his covers in a foreign country, he repeats those words to himself like a mantra.
Sometimes he doesn't know who he's trying to convince anymore.
It's 2008 and he's in an unfamiliar place, his head filled with songs and ballads, following a dream that seems to be drifting farther and farther away. These days, Luhan feels like all he's done is wait. Wait for the bus to take him to Yonsei. Wait for the minutes to tick by as lecture finally ends. Wait for that call back from an audition he went to weeks ago, clutching onto his cell phone like it's his only lifeline. Wait for the loneliness to fade. Wait for the knot of despair in the pit of his stomach to unravel.
So he waits.
And he waits.
And waits some more.
But he's been waiting for so long, sometimes he forgets what he's even waiting for.
It's 2010 when he thinks the wait is finally over when really, it's just begun.
Being a SM trainee is nothing like Luhan ever imagined. Twenty four hours is not enough for him to accomplish everything that needs to be done, to learn everything that needs to be learned. His muscles ache from nonstop dancing and he's singing until his throat feels like sandpaper but still it isn't enough, nothing seems to be enough. They want so much from him. They want all of him. And there are days when Luhan feels like giving up because all he wants is some time to breathe again, time to sleep, time to just be Luhan but then he remembers those years of waiting and he forces himself to ignore the ache in his bones. He's given up too much to turn back now.
When the other trainees break down and call home to their parents for reassuring words, Luhan can only stare blankly at the soft glow of his phone's screen, his fingers hovering over the familiar numbers. He wants to call home but he's not sure there will be any reassuring words for him on the other end. Luhan tucks his phone away in silence. He misses his family but more than that, he just wants to no longer be alone.
Luhan admires Kim Joonmyun for his perseverance. Here is a boy that has waited longer than everyone. Luhan is amazed that Joonmyun can still smile after all these years. He sidles up to the Korean trainee during lunch one day and shoots him a hesitant grin. Joonmyun waves back. For the most part, they eat together in silence until the question Luhan has always wanted to ask bubbles up from inside his throat and into the warm air of the practice room before he can stop himself.
"Joonmyun-ssi, have you ever felt like quitting?"
Joonmyun looks up from his water bottle and pauses. Luhan fidgets nervously, wondering if he said too much but a moment later a warm hand is on his shoulder and he turns to see a knowing expression on Joonmyun's face.
"It's been hard on you hasn't it," Joonmyun whispers sadly.
It's not an answer to his question but as a sob threatens to break free from his lips, Luhan wonders if this is the answer that he's actually been waiting for. He feels like someone finally understands. Luhan falls asleep that night with renewed hope, the warm weight of Joonmyun's hand still tingling on his skin.
Kim Jongin is SM's golden child and there are those that resent him for it. But Luhan knows that it's tough being under constant scrutiny. When the company favors a trainee they have to work extra hard to not disappoint and it shows in the way Jongin winces after every wrong turn or shakes his head in frustration after another failed vocal lesson. At the end of the day, Jongin doesn't need the other trainees treating him like a social pariah as if it's his fault that he gets so much attention and Luhan understands. So he does what any normal person would do given the situation, he offers Jongin a shoulder to lean on.
"I know it's not my place since I'm new and all," Luhan murmurs in the middle of their short break. "But don't work yourself too hard."
Jongin fixes him with a stare that makes him look far older than sixteen. He gives Luhan a once over as if trying to make sense of the scrawny Chinese newcomer and finishes with a smirk.
Jongin throws an arm around Luhan's neck. "Luhan hyung, right?"
Luhan can only nod in surprise.
"Teach me how to sing and I'll teach you how to dance," Jongin grins cheekily.
Luhan isn't sure how his words of comfort turned into an agreement on singing lessons but he's not complaining. He realizes that friends make the wait more bearable.
Luhan meets Sehun through Jongin and his first impression of the lanky teenage boy is that he is an insufferable brat.
"Hyung?" Sehun looks at him in confusion. "You're telling me that he's my hyung?"
"I'm four years older than you!" Luhan sniffs indignantly.
"Right, and I'm Fa Mulan."
Jongin shoves his best friend to the side. "Excuse him, he was raised by wolves and has watched one too many Disney movies."
Luhan ignores Jongin's attempt to keep the situation under control and narrows his eyes. "You're not even Chinese."
"And you're not really Korean," Sehun sticks out his tongue.
"I don't like you."
"Good, because I don't like you!" Sehun huffs.
"Jongin, I like Luhan."
Sehun's face turns impossibly red as he puffs out his cheeks. "I'm not going to repeat myself."
"I thought you said you hated him," Jongin wipes at his forehead with his sleeve.
He's tired and there are three more hours of dance practice left. He doesn't have time to deal with Sehun's stupidity.
"Well, I changed my mind," Sehun slides to the floor with his legs crossed. "He's actually kind of cute."
"Then tell him that. You're the one that's rooming with him," Jongin grumbles. "Why are you talking to me about it?"
"You don't just go up to people and tell them they're cute!"
Jongin throws a towel over his face and groans. "This conversation is dumb. You are dumb. Go away."
Sehun kicks Jongin in the side.
For the first time, Luhan is no longer the one waiting, Sehun has taken his place. Sehun waits for him at the end of every lesson. Sehun waits for him so they can walk back to the dorm together. Sehun waits for him before and after each meal.
He waits for Luhan to return his smiles. He waits for his heart to stop stuttering helplessly in his chest. He waits and waits and waits, always with a content look on his face. And when Luhan gets over the bitterness of their first meeting, they fall into something that can't be defined―more than friends but not quite together. They just are. Luhan doesn't have words for it and he struggles because he feels that Sehun deserves at least that, at least some reassurance that he's not waiting for the impossible. But in the end, it's the younger one that has words of wisdom to offer.
"Sometimes the best things in life are the ones you have to wait for."
Luhan wants to cry because his waiting is finally over. For years, he had nothing under his name, absolutely nothing to call his own but now there's a feeling building up inside him that makes all of it worthwhile. He's standing on a stage and he's shaking, his fingers holding onto the microphone and singing like his life depends on it. In a way, it does because in that moment, he finds himself again. He's no longer Luhan the son, Luhan the exchange student, Luhan the trainee.
He's finally, just Luhan―the boy with a dream that came true.
He breathes in the fresh night air after the debut showcase, his hair still perfectly held together by copious amounts of gel, eyeliner painted around his eyes. He's tired but this time it's a good kind of tired. All around him, his fellow members are nodding off in the car, the adrenaline from the hours before quickly fading away and replaced with weariness. Luhan looks at them and his heart swells.
After he left China, he didn't have a home. He had dorms and practice rooms, nights on an unfamiliar mattress or an unforgiving wooden floor. He had tears and sweat and pain but no home. Surrounded by eleven other boys, so different but so alike, Luhan feels himself tearing up.
He brushes at the corner of his eyes with the sleeve of his jacket and whispers into the darkness of the van, "I'm home."
"Hyung, are you ready now," Sehun whines from outside. "I'd like to get there before the place closes."
Kris mutters something under his breath that sounds like impatient brat but Luhan is already halfway out of the room and ignores the comment completely. He's in a hurry because he remembers what it's like to wait. Luhan sprints down the hallway and into the living room, smiling when his eyes land on Sehun. It's a smile filled with hopes for the future, new beginnings, and happier times. He laces their fingers together and tugs Sehun to the door.
"Sorry to keep you waiting."