[personal profile] maayacolabackup










#



The first time Yixing went to New York, it was alone. He’d traveled light; it had been summer, and all he’d carried was a backpack full of t-shirts and underwear and his grandfather’s camera.

“You don’t speak English,” Lu Han had said. “And we have classes in four weeks and I know you haven’t done any of your homework.”

“I’ve got an idea,” he’d told Lu Han, and then, somehow, he’d found himself alone in Manhattan, taking photos of the high-rises as the twilight fell.

Later, he’d gone to other places—the Burj Khalifa and the Princess Tower in Dubai, and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, and eleven other cities in across the Middle East and Asia just to take photos of buildings doing their best to touch the sky, but it’s that time in New York City that Yixing remembers the most.

He’d just needed to be alone. He recalls the way his hands had been so steady as he took the pictures, standing on the edge of the curb across the street from the Empire State Building, trying to stay out of the way of pushing and shoving pedestrians as he snaps several pictures. He remembers the wind biting at his cheeks and how calm he’d felt, without the pressure of answering questions like how are you feeling? or when are you going to put out your next book? or when are you going to start taking photos of people again?

Yixing didn’t know the answer to any of those questions, but winter in New York City was cold enough to numb his fingertips and his heart.



#



A lot of things are different about this trip to New York.

For one thing, this time, Yixing is not alone. This time, the flight doesn’t feel as long, because he shares Jongin’s iPod and bitches about all his musical choices until Jongin puts on ballet music.

“I used to be a ballet dancer,” he says. “Any kind of dance is good.”

“Is that why you can’t sit still in your seat?” Yixing asks, and Jongin tries to confiscate the earphone that Yixing has pressed to his left ear.

Another thing is that Yixing is not left to linger in his thoughts, because whenever he starts to meander into the webs of his mind Jongin patiently tugs him back with a corny joke or a silly face, anchoring Yixing in the actual moment. Much like a photograph.

Jongin wakes him up around eleven in the morning on their first day. They’re sharing a room, with two twin beds, (“I’m going incognito,” Jongin says. “No one will be looking for me in a regular room at a regular hotel under your name.”)

Yixing’s eyes open to Jongin doing crunches in the middle of the floor while humming the tune of ‘Machine’, and EXO song that Yixing might admit he kind of likes, but only in Mandarin.

Jongin’s stomach flexes under the strain, and Yixing thinks maybe the sweat is dripping in different shades of green.

He finds the angle he wants, where he can see the smooth sinew of Jongin’s arms where they stretch up to cradle his head, and the long line of his torso, skin stretching across rib and muscles beautifully as morning light streams in through the window.

He looks like an ideal subject for Richard Warren; a shot for an Armani add or CK mens, and Yixing thinks there are so many sides to Jongin that he never knows what the next picture he takes will be. It’s exciting.

He snaps three, and it’s only as he changes the f-stop for the fourth that Jongin notices he’s come awake, frowning at him as he finishes his set and then leaning back on his hands as he pants.

“If I’d known you were awake, I’d have put a shirt on to protect my modesty,” Jongin says, and Yixing slits his eyes with disbelief. “My… imagined modesty.”

“I was about to say,” Yixing says, “that I’m pretty sure your fans don’t even need a picture of your abs anymore to remember what they look like, they’ve seen them so often.”

“It’s all part of the game,” Jongin says, and he looks briefly uncomfortable, but Yixing’s not sure why. “I’m going to take a shower.”

“Okay,” Yixing says, and he watches as Jongin leans over to get a change of clothes from his suitcase. Now he looks soft, in contrast to the image only moments before, and shadows that had seemed so sharp now curve gently in the dips of his back as he moves.

Yixing takes a photo of that, too, because he’s here, and Jongin doesn’t even react to the sound of the shutter.



TIP 07



Sometimes conditions won’t be perfect.

When you travel, you have to accept that sometimes a train will come late or that you’ll stay in a museum until closing time, or you’ll sleep in too late to catch that nice early morning light.

But that’s not what makes travel photos so good. What makes travel photos so good, Yixing thinks, is the excitement you can see in them. How happy Jongin looks, even on a dreary January day, to be peering up at the display screens in Times Square, scarf unwound and blowing in the wind and looking like he doesn’t feel the cold at all. Yixing thinks these photos might come out blurry, too, because Jongin can’t seem to contain himself, gesturing big and bold with his hands as he points at familiar advertisements in new languages.

“Look at Janet Jackson’s breasts in that ad!” Jongin says, as they pass the Forever XXI. “They’re defying physics!”

“What do you know about physics?” Yixing says, taking a few shots of Jongin’s indignant face without bothering to change his camera setting. As he fires the shot, the sun makes an appearance, which throws off the entire balance of the photo, but Jongin is wriggling anyway, so Yixing doesn’t mind.

“I’m a dancer,” Jongin says. “I know everything about physics.”

Travel photos don’t have to be perfect, because conditions shift and change and it’s impossible, sometimes, to find the ideal moment. But there are plenty of moments, he knows, that become ideal in mid-shot.

These photos will end up becoming some of his favorites, despite everything.

He also knows that he’ll see the bright red of Jongin’s shirt even though he’s taken the photos in black and white, because Jongin is always, somehow, in color.



#



They stop at a Sbarro’s for lunch, and Yixing snaps photos of cheese hanging from Jongin’s mouth.

“What’s your fascination with taking pictures of me eating?”

“These are for me,” Yixing reassures him, and Jongin flushes for the briefest moment before he schools his face into a scowl.

“Sure they are,” Jongin says, and Yixing reaches across the table and swipes a bit of cheese off Jongin’s chin.

Jongin slicks his tongue out like he’s trying to lick at the spot Yixing just touched, but it makes him look silly.

Jongin gets recognized as they’re throwing out their trash. Two Korean girls approach with scraps of paper and Jongin signs them with a flourish, drawing silly eyelashed eyes underneath his big ‘KAI’, and it makes Yixing laugh as he finishes clearing their table.

“It’s easier being famous like this.” He’s got his hands tucked in his coat pockets, and a small, secretive smile on his face. “When it’s just one or two people and I don’t have to worry about getting trampled at the airport.”

“Hmm.” Yixing doesn’t really get it, because he’s never been that sort of famous. He’s the sort of famous where people only know who he is if they have an interest in his field. Even that amount of famous, sometimes, is too much famous.

“It’s hard to have a life,” Jongin continues. “When I hang out with you, even if you’re taking pictures… There’s no hairspray or make-up, and I’m just wearing whatever, and it feels like a friend taking pictures. It’s not so overwhelming. Usually I’m afraid that the camera is going to see something I don’t want it to.”

“Like what?” Yixing asks before he can think better of it.

“We all have secrets,” Jongin says. “Don’t you think you’re getting to see enough of mine?”

“No,” Yixing replies, and maybe he’s more tired than he’d thought, if he can’t stop himself from saying everything he thinks. “You’ve got so much I’m still trying-“

“You have secrets too,” Jongin says. “Do I get to know those, or does this only go one way?”

“I-“ Yixing tries to figure out how to explain to Jongin that Yixing is the photographer; he’s the person behind the camera, not the person in front of it. It’s not his secrets that anyone is looking for. It’s his ability to see other people’s secrets that makes him a good photographer. It’s unearthing things with contrasts and the right light, and finding stories in every frame he shoots.

He’s so lost in thought he doesn’t pay attention when they come to the end of the block, preparing to cross the street without checking.

Jongin’s arms come out of his pockets and wrap around Yixing’s waist, pulling Yixing’s back into his chest. “How do you make it anywhere alive?” Jongin hisses into his ear, and Yixing swallows harshly as he registers the warmth of Jongin’s breath on the shell of his ear. He hadn’t realized he was so cold until he’s suffused in Jongin’s warmth.

“When I’m alone people don’t make me think so much,” Yixing mumbles, and Jongin takes a deep breath. Yixing realizes that Jongin’s arms are still wrapped around him, and he thinks that should be uncomfortable but it isn’t. It does make him feel strange though; like how he feels when he takes a perfect picture of a sunset, light streaming across everything so perfectly that the horizon seems to glow.

Jongin seems to realize their position too, though, and he pulls back, coming to stand beside Yixing instead of behind him, hands shoved back in his pockets. His face looks pink. Yixing wonders if he’s finally feeling the cold.

“Your scarf,” Yixing says. “If you’re cold, you should wrap your scarf tighter.”

“I’m not cold,” Jongin says. “I’m never cold.”

“Oh,” Yixing says, and Jongin’s lower lip finds its way between his teeth again, a habit that just draws attention to how full they are.

Yixing takes another photo, and knows that there will be the brilliant backdrop of NYC behind Jongin and when people look at the photo they won’t even notice.

It starts to snow when it gets dark, when they’re walking back to their hotel later, after Yixing takes Jongin to all the places he’d captured in his book, explaining to Jongin about angles and motivations and perspective and watching Jongin’s eyes slowly glaze over as it goes over his head.

Jongin sticks out his tongue to catch snowflakes as Yixing munches out of his bag of potato chips, that he’d picked up from a street vendor along their walk, and Yixing shakes his head.

“Sadly, I think my snack is healthier.”

“Probably,” Jongin says, skipping ahead a little and weaving through pedestrians for whom the snow is more of a hindrance than a joy. “But isn’t it beautiful?”

Yixing stops, suddenly, as Jongin pauses under a streetlight, and Yixing can see the snow flurries and the melted puddles on the sidewalk and the light hits Jongin just right. Yixing lifts his camera without thinking, looking through the viewfinder, and it’s just as unfathomably interesting as it had been with just his eyes, only now Yixing can steal this moment and keep it forever.

He takes the shot, squinting and adjusting his focus without thought, hands falling into long remembered patterns, and Jongin isn’t even paying attention to him, trying in vain to catch snow on his outstretched tongue.

“Yixing?”

He takes the photo.

“Yes,” Yixing says. “It’s beautiful.”



#



“The sky is so blue,” Jongin says, kicking at a pile of snow like a kindergartener, and Yixing looks up. “Yesterday was so gray.”

“It is.” Yixing likes the white of the clouds against it. “I hadn’t noticed.”

Jongin looks quizzically at him. “Do you just… not notice color, or…?”

“I notice it,” Yixing says. “I just tune it out.”

“I was wondering,” Jongin says. “Because when we were in Tokyo, you were wearing lime green shoes and a pink unicorn sweatshirt and carrying that beige bag…” Jongin laughs. “And today with the bright blue shirt and the maroon pants. It’s like colors are so secondary.”

“In a black and white photo, the shirt would photograph as light and the pants as a middle dark,” Yixing says, shaking his head so his bangs move out of his eyes.

They’re standing on the corner of 34th street. Penn Station is in front of them. Yixing prefers Grand Central, or Union, architecturally; those are both stations where the curves disappear into darkness and make the eye search for the rest. Yixing likes buildings like that.

They’re a lot like Jongin.

Penn Station is good today, too, though, if only for the myriad of people flowing out of it. Jongin is speaking again, though, and he’s more interesting than a hundred strangers pouring out the 34th street exit of Penn.

“But the world is in colors.” Jongin licks his lips. “Lots of them.”

“I know,” Yixing says. “It’s overwhelming.”

“You’re so weird.” Jongin doesn’t seem upset about that fact. Instead he just seems amused.

“It’s a lot more colorful than I had remembered,” Yixing says later. “New York, I mean.”

“That’s because you’re with me,” Jongin says with a wink, and then he looks kind of embarrassed, but Yixing thinks it’s probably true.



#



Another dream. Yixing is standing on sand the color of dried concrete and it’s soft. His feet are almost white against it, and slowly, they start to sink into the sand. He watches his feet disappear, and then his shins, and he doesn’t start to worry until his knees breech the surface of the sand, and he realizes he’s probably going to just disappear.

It reaches his neck, and he closes his eyes, shutting out the grayscale trees and sky and sand. He sees her face. “What are you doing, Zhang Yixing?”

Suddenly there are arms around his shoulders, and warm breath on the shell of his ear, and he’s being pulled up and out of the sand, and closer to a warm chest. “How do you make it anywhere alive?” a voice whispers, and then Yixing is waking up.

He rolls onto his side, stretching out the tightness in his back and neck, and looks at Jongin.

Jongin is lying on his stomach, arms stretched out and legs tangled in sheets, and he’s wriggling and shifting and Yixing laughs, because even in sleep Jongin can’t be still.

A warm chest. Breath on his ear.

Jongin is gold.



#



They land in Incheon, where they’d started, and security informs them that the airport is swarming. “We’ll have to walk VIP,” Jongin says. “I usually… try not to do that, but…”

“I understand,” Yixing says, and he scratches at his neck. “Part of hanging out with famous people, I guess.” He tries to be casual, because he can see the nervousness in the set of Jongin’s jaw. Jongin’s eyes are cold.

“I don’t want them to take pictures of you,” Jongin says. “You don’t deserve that.”

“Oh.” Yixing hadn’t thought about the consequences for him, being photographed with Jongin.

He thinks about Jongin taking of his hat on the ferry, and mentioning being free. Yixing might be trapped by his memories, but at least, he thinks, he’s not literally trapped like Jongin.

They manage to get out before anyone realizes they aren’t going the other way, sliding into an unmarked van that takes them to where they’re meeting Sehun and Zitao for dinner.

They get shabu shabu; the Japanese hot-pot slides warm down Yixing’s throat, heating him from the inside, and Sehun and Zitao are lively, talking about drama filming and how one of the girls on the variety show Zitao had guested on had tried to get his number, which had Zitao blushing and mumbling even more than usual.

“And Kyungsoo-hyung came by set to visit me, yesterday,” Sehun says. “He and Junmyeon.”

Yixing just quietly eats, because this isn’t his world. He mostly watches the way Jongin’s hands grip the chopsticks, and the way his thin sweater clings to his biceps.

Jongin excuses himself to go to the bathroom, and Zitao rounds on Yixing. “Is everything okay?”

“I don’t… The fans at the airport?”

“Oh.” Sehun takes a piece of beef and shoves it in his mouth. “They’re not so bad.” He chews, and Zitao laughs and closes Sehun’s mouth with his finger. “Not like the ones who used to stalk Jongin.”

“Stalk?”

“Yeah,” Zitao says. “A female friend of his was harassed when someone got a hold of his call records. Standard idol stuff.”

“That’s… horrible?” Another layer Yixing has yet to peel back. Jongin has so many Yixing thinks it might take a lifetime.

“Some fans… They’re obsessed,” Zitao says. “Who knows with what. With an idea, with an image… Who knows. Not all fans are like that, but the ones who go through Jongin’s trash and stalk a high school friend of his because they think she might be his girlfriend? They’re obsessed.”

Jongin doesn’t want anyone to take pictures of Yixing because… he’s worried. Yixing doesn’t know what to make of that, when it would be just as easy to just clarify that Yixing’s just working for him.

“But Jongin is shit at lying,” Sehun says, and Yixing realizes he’s thinking aloud. “And it’s obvious to anyone with eyes that you guys are friends.” Sehun gives Yixing a searching look, that Yixing returns because he doesn’t know what Sehun is looking for.

Jongin comes back from the bathroom to their uneasy silence. “What did you say?” Jongin asks Sehun, and Sehun throws both hands up defensively.

“Nothing,” Sehun says. “Zhang talks to himself enough that I don’t have to say anything.”

Yixing smiles, and Zitao pats his shoulder conciliatorily.

That, I believe.” And Jongin looks at him and grins, and that unnerving shift in his stomach, that he’s been carefully ignoring, is undeniable.

Click. Whirr. Yixing takes a photograph right there in his mind, without a camera, of Jongin’s vibrant smile.

Zitao steps out for a cigarette, Sehun following him to keep him company. Yixing puts his hand on Jongin’s thigh, startling Jongin into spilling the soju he’d just started to pour.

“Thank you,” he says, and Jongin gulps, cheeks going pink again, but this time there’s no cold to blame it on.

“For what?” Jongin asks, carefully, hesitantly, setting a hand on top of Yixing’s, covering it completely.

Yixing doesn’t reply, just looks at Jongin until Jongin lifts his head to meet his gaze.

“Thank you, too, you know?” Jongin laughs. “For looking at me and seeing me.”

“That’s what a real photographer does,” Yixing says, instead of ”I can’t see anything else,” which is becoming increasingly true.


#



Obsession, for Yixing, is found in the knotted mess of his stomach when he closes his eyes and sees Jongin’s smile closed in by the frame of an imaginary viewfinder.

Then he opens his eyes, and he’s in his studio, hundreds of pictures of New York City and of Jongin spread across the table. He’s sleepy, because he’d stayed up all night printing the photos and hanging them to dry in shifts between cups of black coffee and barley tea.

His mouth is dry, and he looks down at the black and white prints, and Jongin’s draws his gaze in every single picture.



#



It’s early spring. Yixing has had three glasses of champagne and it hasn’t made him any more social. Yixing secretly hopes that Kris, who’d come with him, is being social enough to make up for how scattered Yixing’s thoughts are.

“You’re gone again,” says a familiar voice, and Yixing spins around to see Jongin.

“I wasn’t expecting you,” Yixing says.

It’s the two of them, side by side in tuxes again. Yixing thinks they probably look equally uncomfortable. “I told you I like photography.”

“I thought you were in Korea.” Yixing clears his throat. “At least, you were last night.”

They’d been on the phone too long. Jongin had fallen asleep as they talked, mumbling in a mix of Mandarin and Korean as Yixing matted a few prints of the temple in Asakusa for his mother to put in her kitchen.

“And then I did a radio show this morning, and took a flight this afternoon.” Jongin smiles, and his hair is slicked back from his forehead so Yixing can see the lift of his eyebrows. “I’m here to see your trains.”

His eyes are such a rich brown. Yixing thinks brown is such an insufficient way to describe them. Yixing’s never been so interested in color.

“Mr. Zhang?” Jongin turns away from him, and Yixing follows his gaze. Yixing knows this man; he remembers meeting him at countless gallery openings, both his own and others.

“Ah, Mr. Yang,” Yixing replies. “How are you tonight?”

“Not bad,” Mr. Yang says. “Always happy to see young photographers producing work.”

“Yes.” Yixing doesn’t know what to say to that. “Thank you for coming.”

“I keep hoping you’ll live up to your promise.” Mr Yang adjusts his cap. “Maybe next time.”

“I think the exhibit’s great,” Jongin says, straightening his jacket and standing up to his full height.

“Well, I don’t know that idols are really qualified to have opinions about photography?”

“You’re right,” Jongin says. “Silly me.” Yixing can feel his anger in waves. The first time they’d met, Jongin had been on a low simmer. Yixing thinks now, he’s on a boil. “Please excuse me.”

Kris rescues him from Mr. Yang, looking like a comic book character as usual, and Yixing gratefully steps out of the conversation, moving away from people and toward the back doors.

He finds Jongin on the balcony, latticed iron railing an almost invisible backdrop in the dark of night. He’s leaning with his back to the city, eyes focused on the ground. He’s got a cigarette awkwardly perched between his index and middle finger, burning fast up toward the filter.

He looks anxious. He takes a deep puff from the cigarette and then coughs, choking on the smoke. Yixing rolls his eyes, even as he admires Jongin’s profile, illuminated by distant neon city lights.

“You look stupid,” Yixing says, and Jongin’s head rises sharply, cigarette falling to the ground. “Not cool. Stupid.”

There’s still a thin sheen of sweat on his neck. His shirt is unbuttoned all the way to the navel like the exhibitionist he is, and Yixing keeps catching glimpses of defined abs as Jongin shifts from foot to foot. The shoes look uncomfortable.

“Shut up,” Jongin mumbles, putting the cigarette out with the toe of his boot and leaning forward onto the railing.

“It’s not that I have anything against smoking,” Yixing says, “it’s just that I don’t want to see you lose a lung.” Yixing smiles as Jongin blushes, head falling down so his bangs fall into his eyes.

The dim light illuminates the angles of his face. Yixing finds him breathtaking.

“It seems relaxing,” Jongin says, after a moment of silence. “Whenever Zitao does it, I mean. So I stole one from his pocket.”

“That’s because Zitao knows what he’s doing,” Yixing says. “You don’t have a clue.”

“Sounds like most of my life, to be honest,” Jongin says, and he gives Yixing a half-smile that curls like that cigarette smoke in the pit of his stomach. “Just me watching other people and taking guesses.”

“That’s all any of us can do, really.” Yixing rests his hand on Jongin’s forearm, and Jongin studies it, but doesn’t move away from the touch. Jongin’s arm is warm, even through the fabric of his dress shirt. “You’ll catch a cold.”

“I’m hot,” and Jongin sounds tired. “From not punching people in the face.” There’s still a rasp in his voice, from coughing, and Yixing likes the way Jongin sounds even deeper than usual.

“We should both be used to talk like that. Getting angry means they win.” Yixing drops his hands to Jongin’s dress shirt, doing up the buttons one by one. Jongin shivers when his fingertips touch the skin, but Yixing steadfastly ignores the hitches in Jongin’s breath as he works. “You’re always hot. But you’ll still get sick.”

Professional distance. Yixing shouldn’t be out here. Shouldn’t be doing up the buttons of Jongin’s shirt and talking to him about life. And yet, turning around now, and going back inside to a roomful of people who treat Jongin like a mannequin instead of a person makes him feel a bit sick to his stomach.

“I thought you hated me,” Jongin says. “When we first met. Did you know that?” Yixing’s hands drop to his sides, and he should take a step back, but there’s something addictive in the way Jongin’s body gives off so much heat. Yixing’s hands are always cold.

“Why would you think that?”

“When you were leaving, I… I tried to smile at you and you just stared back at me all empty like a robot. Your face was completely still. I thought I had done something wrong.”

Yixing sighs. “You were the perfect picture.” He can still smell that cigarette. “And I didn’t have my camera.”

“I sort of figured out you didn’t hate me when you showed up all sweaty and wild-eyed at my dressing room door.” Jongin laughs, a tiny laugh that’s almost embarrassed. “I can’t believe you went to my show.”

“There was something I was upset about, that first night.”

“What was it?” His fingertips ghost across the skin, goosebumps rising in their wake. The skin is still hot, so Yixing’s not sure why.

“I hated that I couldn’t say no.”

“What?”

“I hated that I looked at you and couldn’t say no. To the project. To myself.” Yixing looks up and meets Jongin’s gaze, but Jongin’s gaze is shuttered; Yixing hates that look on his face. It makes him look like a corpse. A pretty corpse, but Yixing doesn’t photograph corpses.

Yixing photographs shy smiles and laughs that tickle at the corner of eyes, and startled faces when snow begins to fall unexpectedly.

“Why couldn’t you say no?” Jongin licks his lips, and Yixing follows the progress of his tongue. “Because of the way I look? You didn’t know anything about me, then. Not like now.” There’s something uncertain in his tone. Yixing is just afraid he’ll say the wrong thing and Jongin will close back up; all the layers he’s carefully pulled off with his camera lens.

“I wanted to pull you apart,” Yixing says. He remembers the way Jongin had seem so bright around the edges. And even when Yixing had squinted his eyes, all he could see was Jongin. “Piece by piece, and find out what things were hiding in your eyes.”

Jongin swallows, sweat drying on his neck in China’s early spring air. Yixing can’t help but smile as Jongin shifts in place, because Jongin is constantly in motion.

People, in general, are constantly in motion, but Jongin is different. Jongin makes the air around him crackle with energy, and with reds and blues and yellows, even now, in the dark. Yixing looks at him and wonders if it’s possible to confine Jongin to a photograph; maybe if he tries, the image of Jongin will peel itself right off the print and dance away.

“You’re not an idol to me, Jongin. You’re a person I find fascinating.”

“Oh,” Jongin says, and he reaches down and grabs one of Yixing’s hands between his own. “You’re the one that’s going to catch the cold,” Jongin says, offering a peek of white, straight teeth as he pushes away from the balcony. Yixing is drawn with him, hand caught between Jongin’s two. The cigarette is on the ground, still red at the tip but dying fast. It would be a nice photo for the wall of his father’s study. He puts it out with his heel, and then looks back up at Jongin when he clears his throat. “We should go back inside.”

“Yes,” Yixing says, and he knows Kris is probably looking for him, wondering why he’s not circling the crowd. He probably shouldn’t have left his own show in the first place. “We should.”

Kris gives him a strange look when they re-enter together, but Yixing just smiles at him blankly, and wishes he had a camera to hide behind as his stomach rolls. Jongin drops his hand and steps away when the glass balcony door shuts behind them, and Yixing thinks where they touched, Yixing’s hand has been flecked with gold.



#



Photography deals exquisitely with appearances, but nothing is what it appears to be. – Duane Michaels



#



Yixing is on the road again. It’s just the same as the first time. She’s standing at the end of the road, looking impatient, and Yixing wonders what she’s waiting for.

She’d always thought Yixing moved a little too slow.



#


“I’m so happy to see you like this,” his grandmother says. “It’s like when you first got that camera. Taking pictures of everything and smiling as you looked through the viewfinder.” She takes a seat in her rocking chair and puts her hands on her knees. “It’s nice to see it again.”

“What did you think of the train pictures?” Yixing asks, and his grandmother grins.

“I like the pictures of the idol boy in Japan better,” she says, and Yixing’s stomach sloshes.

“Me too,” he says quietly, and he takes a picture of her as she turns to look out the window.



#



EXO is promoting in China again. Yixing would know even if Jongin hadn’t told him, because there’s a rush of magazines with Jongin, Zitao and Sehun’s faces on the covers filling the newsstands.

He’s on his way to meet Jongin at his hotel. The back gardens are safe enough, and Jongin only has a few hours before he has to start getting ready for an awards show where EXO is going to perform.

He doesn’t mean to notice, but he does, his eye catching the lurid magazine cover as he walks past.

“Tabloids have you connected to Krystal.” Yixing says later, when he’s sitting next to Jongin in the grass. He looks down. He’d told himself not to ask, but for some reason it bothers him. He guesses he’d thought Jongin would mention something like that, if it were true. The camera is heavy and comforting between his hands.

Jongin laughs. “Kai and Krystal. I’ve heard about it.”

“Heard about it?” Yixing tilts his head to the side. His hair falls into his face, dull red hiding his interest from Jongin, who seems amused. “Not lived it?”

Jongin stretches his legs out in front of himself in the grass, and Yixing takes a picture. Jongin blinks in surprise, before he looks back down. “She’s not my type.”

“Too cute?” Yixing tries to imagine what sort of girl Jongin might like. Krystal, another famous name and more famous face, had looked pretty next to Kai on the cover of the tabloid Yixing had seen that morning. She would be perfect for Kai, but Jongin is so much more than just Kai. “Too… something else?”

Jongin leans his head back, baring his throat. His hair is wet, still, drying unevenly under the sun. His fingers wind through the long pieces of grass, getting dirt under his fingernails. Yixing tries to take in every detail of the scene, committing the lines to memory.

“Too female,” Jongin says, after a long pause. Jongin’s voice is filled with affected nonchalance, but he’s watching Yixing out of the corner of his eye, and his fingers on his other hand have unconsciously wound themselves into the hem of his shirt, baring a flash of smooth, tan skin.

“Oh,” Yixing says, swallowing, and he can feel his chest tightening inexplicably. “Then perhaps your rumors should be with Do Kyungsoo, instead.”

Jongin’s not expecting his response. His eyes go round, and Yixing likes the way his lips part.

He wants to take another photograph, but the lighting isn’t ideal; the sun is too high in the sky and the tree is casting just enough shadow that Yixing knows the image won’t turn out exactly as he sees it now. It won’t be nearly as beautiful, so he drinks in Jongin’s casual elegance with his eyes instead of his camera lens.

Suddenly, Jongin starts to chuckle. “If only my fans were more like you.”

“I’m your fan,” Yixing says, leaning closer until their shoulders bump, and Jongin looks over at him completely. There’s still a hint of red in his cheeks, and Yixing wonders what Jongin is thinking. Whether or not Jongin has told many people what he just told Yixing.

Yixing bats his eyelashes, and smirks a little, and Jongin snorts. “Whatever,” he says, and Yixing can see, in detail, the scars on his skin and a bit of makeup he’d missed on the underside of his jaw. “Don’t… You can’t…”

“I won’t tell anyone.” Yixing says it solemnly, and Jongin scans his face, trying to figure out if Yixing is serious or deadpan, and Yixing takes a hand off of his camera to set it on Jongin’s knee. “Really.”

Too close. Yixing knows he’s too close, but there’s something addictive in the negative space between them. Yixing wants to adjust for it; to slide closer and find a new vantage-point.

“Tell me something about you,” Jongin says, and Yixing laughs.

“I used to want to be a musician,” Yixing tells him. “But my hands were too small for my grandmother’s piano. So she taught me how to take photos instead.”

“These secrets don’t seem equal in weight,” Jongin says, but he lets it go.


#



“So let’s see what you’ve got,” Zitao says, as Jongin looks around curiously, taking in Yixing’s entryway. Yixing guides them to the studio, where he’s got his favorite pictures spread flush across the surface of his big work table.

Yixing is nervous to show them to Jongin. Jongin is quiet, letting Zitao take the lead looking through the pictures as he looks over his shoulder, occasionally glancing over his shoulder at Yixing.

“Do you…” Jongin reaches forward and picks up a picture. It’s from New York, of him in the snow. “Like them?”

“They’re…”

“Really good,” Zitao says quietly. He looks up at Yixing, and his gaze is intense, like he’s trying to look through Yixing. Yixing stares back, not dissembling, and Zitao nods.

“They’re not a stranger,” Jongin says, voice tight. “They look like me.”

“Of course they do,” Yixing says. “I know what I’m doing.”

“Portraits are about more than physical appearance, right?”

“Exactly,” Yixing replies.

Zitao clears his throat, reminding Yixing, and maybe Jongin too, that he’s in the room.

“Would you like something to drink?” Yixing should have asked that before brought them into the studio, but his mind had been on the photos and just the photos.

“We should actually go,” Zitao says. “Jongin insisted we come by despite two interviews today.”

Jongin puffs out his cheeks in aggravation or embarrassment, and Yixing pretends not to notice the way it makes his heartbeat quicken, or the way his fingers itch for the camera.

The list of things Yixing doesn’t let himself notice when it comes to Jongin is almost as long as the list of things he can’t help but notice.

He specifically doesn’t notice the vulnerable softness in Jongin’s eyes when Yixing tells him where he keeps the spare key, with the soft comment “you can come in whenever you like, even if I don’t answer,” though.

He also doesn’t notice Zitao watching carefully as Jongin’s hand lingers just a bit too long on his shoulder.



#



In the world of photography, you get to share a captured moment with other people.- James Wilson



#



“This photograph.” Yixing looks up from where he’s matting a print to see Jongin standing inside his studio, looking up at the portrait on the wall. “It’s the famous one.”

“Yes,” Yixing says. “It is.”

“Sorry to barge in.” Jongin looks at the floor, and Yixing can see a flush to his cheeks. “I knocked three or four times, and I knew you were home because your car… but you didn’t answer the door, and you said-“

“I told you to come in if I didn’t answer,” Yixing says, mouth dry. “You didn’t break any rules.”

“I can never tell,” Jongin murmurs, “what your rules are.” ’You never tell me anything about yourself,’ is implied, but Yixing pretends he doesn’t notice.

“I don’t have many.” Yixing shrugs. “I’m sorry for making you wait. I lost track of time.”

“You sure do lose track of a lot, don’t you?” Jongin smirks, embarrassment slipping back behind that familiar bravado, and Yixing smiles softly.

“Another yes,” Yixing says, and Jongin walks closer to the portrait that Yixing keeps on the wall because he’s a masochist. “I took that photo when I was eighteen.”

“’Tears Airport’, right?” Jongin asks, and Yixing stills, lifting the exacto-knife from the posterboard. “You won some big award for it.”

“I did,” Yixing says, and Jongin turns to study him. Yixing doesn’t look at him, but he can feel the heaviness of Jongin’s stare.

“It’s beautiful.” Jongin catches the light then, and it slants across his cheekbones and Yixing forgets to breathe. “All the pictures you take are beautiful, though.” He rests his fingertips on the frame. “But this one…”

“What about it?” Yixing keeps his tone light, but he notices his hand is shaking. He sets down the blade and rubs his hands on his jeans. He has no reason to be nervous, but he is.

“It’s sad, isn’t it?” Jongin sounds nervous too. Yixing meets Jongin’s eyes, and as usual, he gets a little lost in them. “Why is it called ‘Tears Airport’?”

“Because it’s the story of a goodbye.” Yixing walks over to stand next to Jongin. Jongin is warm, and Yixing doesn’t lean into it, even if he’s a little cold and Jongin’s heat is so inviting. “It’s the story of how we said goodbye, her and I.”

“This is the photo those guys said was fluke?” Jongin narrows his eyes. “This photo?”

“Yes,” Yixing says. “In some ways, those guys are right. The emotions I felt then… I’ll never feel them again.”

“You were in love with her?” Jongin has his eyes fixed on the photograph, now, but Yixing has his eyes fixed on Jongin. Jongin’s mouth is curved downward, a little, skin on his lips dry.

“Yes.” Yixing clears his throat. “I was. But I left her. I was stupid and eighteen. I broke up with her because I didn’t want the distraction of having a girlfriend while I was traveling, you know? Pursuing a crazy dream is hard enough without someone waiting for you, tugging on you, to come back. I thought we’d get back together when I returned.” Yixing laughs, and it sounds a little bitter, even to his own ears. “And… she let me go.”

Jongin slides fingers into his hair, mussing the dark waves and revealing the slope of his forehead. Yixing, suddenly, wants to do that too. He wonders if it’s as soft as it looks. “Let you?”

“If the situation were reversed…” Yixing pauses, to gather his thoughts. “I would never let the one I love walk out of my life like I walked out of hers.”

“You act like it’s a choice.” Jongin is smirking at him. “One person isn’t enough to make a relationship work. Both people have to want to hold on.”

“It is a choice,” Yixing says. “Because love is selfish, anyway. And I really… I really wanted her to be selfish.” It’s a raw, unpolished thought. Like undeveloped film still in the can, waiting to be exposed, hung up to dry. Yixing’s not quite sure, sometimes, how prints will turn out. “I wanted her to demand everything from me.”

Jongin tilts his head toward Yixing. “You’re confusing.”

“I am?” Yixing asks, forcing the blank look back on his face, and Jongin nudges him with his shoulder. “Sorry.”

“It makes you more interesting,” Jongin says. “Even if I don’t understand I always want to try.”

Yixing feels the same way about Jongin.

Yixing remembers Kris telling him that Jongin was nothing like his billboards, when he’d asked Yixing to do Jongin’s photo book. It’s true; Jongin sparkles and shines, color and motion and everything Yixing’s never had to work so hard to capture before.

Jongin is the challenge of Yixing’s life.

“Good luck,” Yixing says, sincerely, and Jongin blinks at him, and then laughs, face stretching into a wide grin, the creases around his mouth folding in the light from the window. Jongin is a study in contrasts, and Yixing thinks he could look at him forever and always find something new.

That scares him, because he knows when this project is over and Yixing has selected two hundred photographs to cram together into a book, there will be thousands more he’ll never have the chance to take. That there are millions of perspectives he’ll never shoot and hundreds of different smiles he’ll never have on film, and he’ll never imprison the myriad of angles that Jongin looks up at him through soot-black eyelashes that seem to kill the light, no matter how many photos he takes.

It feels a bit like obsession, and like more than art, and that’s the scariest thing of all.

“Sometimes I think I’ll never get you,” Jongin says, and Yixing shakes his head.

“I’m not so hard to understand.” Yixing hooks his thumbs through his belt-loops. “Not as hard as I’d like to be.” He thinks about accepting a Lucie statue for ‘Tears Airport’, the heartbreak leaking out of him, spilling like light through a suddenly unveiled window, and he takes a deep breath.

“Maybe not,” Jongin says softly, and Yixing can’t read the look in his eyes, but it’s achingly alive. His hand comes up and wraps around Yixing’s wrist, and he bites down on his lower lip. “I—“ His thumb runs circles over the bone there, caressing the skin with the rough pad of it. “You can take better.”

“What?” Jongin drops his wrist like it burns, and takes a step back, spinning around to face the entryway.

“You can take better,” Jongin says. “Photographs. You might never take a photograph like that again, with those emotions, but there are other emotions. There’s still a lot left to discover, for you.” Yixing can’t see his face, but he can see the anxiousness in his back, and the way his hands are loosely curled into fists.

Yixing sweeps his eyes down the line of Jongin’s neck. “I know,” Yixing whispers, and Jongin must hear something in his voice because he looks over his shoulder, hair falling back into his eyes.

He is a Phillip Halsman portrait, a study in darks and lights of charisma, and Yixing’s heart beats a little faster.

“You wanna get something to eat?” Yixing makes his voice soft, cajoling, and Jongin exhales.

“Yeah,” and then that familiar half smile tugs up on the left corner of Jongin’s lips. “I’m the one who came in here looking for you, remember?”

“You’re right,” Yixing says. “Walking into my studio like you’re allowed.”

“You said-“ and then he laughs as Yixing offers him a purposefully bland smile. “You’re a menace.”

“You love it,” Yixing says, walking past Jongin and out into the hallway, walking toward the entrance where he sees Jongin’s leather boots messily thrown in the center of the entryway.

And maybe he imagines it, but he thinks he hears Jongin murmur “I do,” when Yixing’s arm brushes his.

Later, as they walk side by side, Jongin’s elbow pushing into Yixing’s bicep as night falls, Jongin nudges Yixing gently until Yixing looks up at him. In sunset, Yixing thinks Jongin looks like the embodiment of twilight, stretching purple and gold across Yixing’s vision. “What happened when you came back?”

“What?”

“You left her, and there was that picture… what happened when you came back? Was she angry? Did she not forgive you?” Jongin’s mouth is hidden, from this angle, but Yixing’s committed the contours of Jongin’s face to memory, and he can call up the expression. Lower lip pulled a little flat across his lower teeth and chin tight and tucked.

“About three weeks after I left, there was a bus accident,” Yixing says, eyes finding purchase on the road beneath their feet. “It was all over the news.” Yixing takes a gulp of air. He’s a bit dizzy. “She…” He breathes, somehow. “She was going to visit my grandmother.”

“Oh.” Jongin is quiet. Yixing likes that Jongin is quiet, because the buzzing in his head is so loud.

“The last picture I ever took of her, she was crying. You can see the despair in her eyes. That’s how everyone remembers her.”

“I’m—“ Stuttered breaths. A pause.

“Every time I see that photo with my name next to it, it feels like…”

“Yeah,” Jongin says. “Yeah.”

“Dorothea Lange once said,” and the waist of Yixing’s jeans digs into his hips and the chill in the air stings his cheeks and his lips and the tiny slices of exposed skin where his scarf doesn’t meet his jacket collar, “Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.” Yixing tugs his jacket tighter. “’'Tears Airport’ is a terrible instant I can’t escape.”

“So you don’t take photographs of people.” Jongin’s voice is low and uncertain, and Yixing looks up from the pavement to try and read something in Jongin’s profile.

“I’m scared to catch other instants like that,” Yixing admits. “Perhaps I am a coward.”

“But you’re taking photos of me.” Jongin presses closer, and there’s a flood of warmth. They’ve reached the gallery, now, and Yixing feels a strange hesitance to enter the building and leave this strange feeling of connection behind them.

“Yes,” Yixing says, quietly. “Because you have so many instants I have to catch.”

Jongin opens the door for him. “You’re so confusing.” His face is flushed from the cold, eyes glittering in the light.

Yixing doesn’t know what to say. ”Thank you for listening,” maybe, or ”I’m sorry for saying too much.” But Jongin doesn’t ask for words; never asks for words, so Yixing doesn’t say anything at all.






part v



Date: 2012-09-17 08:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] goldengutgirl.livejournal.com
“I’m a dancer,” Jongin says. “I know everything about physics.” FUCKING--

Yixing prefers Grand Central, or Union, architecturally; those are both stations where the curves disappear into darkness and make the eye search for the rest. Yixing likes buildings like that.

They’re a lot like Jongin.


SOB. ♥

Jongin is gold. Sigh. Gold. Sigh again.

“That’s what a real photographer does,” Yixing says, instead of ”I can’t see anything else,” which is becoming increasingly true. I can't take this klfhkldhfssdga

Jongin laughs. “Kai and Krystal. I’ve heard about it.” I COUGHED. AND THEN "Too female," I CHOKED LMAO

“’Tears Airport’, right?” Jongin asks, and Yixing stills, lifting the exacto-knife from the posterboard. “You won some big award for it.” ------i want you to know that at this point i was clutching my pillow really tight and i am a word away from actual tears omg

“If the situation were reversed…” Yixing pauses, to gather his thoughts. “I would never let the one I love walk out of my life like I walked out of hers.” I'm glad you wrote this, here. Because I'll never really know Zhang Yixing anyway, I can be content with this headcanon/canon.

“About three weeks after I left, there was a bus accident,” Yixing says, eyes finding purchase on the road beneath their feet. “It was all over the news.” Yixing takes a gulp of air. He’s a bit dizzy. “She…” He breathes, somehow. “She was going to visit my grandmother.”

NO. YOU CAN'T JUST. SOB. NO. I wanted her to definitively let him go not like this sobbbbdskfhjdkjhgjfkdg Sorry I'm like taking this too intensely haha. This is what happens when I get fic that hits too close to home lmao. ;;

I love that last paragraph though. I'm thankful for it. Ugh man my comments look like stupid messes. Also I can't believe I'm finishing this tonight.

Date: 2012-09-17 07:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ayoready.livejournal.com
and the waist of Yixing’s jeans digs into his hips and the chill in the air stings his cheeks and his lips and the tiny slices of exposed skin where his scarf doesn’t meet his jacket collar

I started crying at that description and I couldn't stop and I don't even know why

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