[personal profile] maayacolabackup










#



They get breakfast at a small cafe off a side street. Jongin walks there on autopilot, and the girl behind the counter knows him, but not like she recognizes him from a magazine.

Jongin orders for both of them in stilted Japanese, flushing when he gets it a bit wrong but smiling cockily anyway because he knows the girl behind the counter thinks he's attractive anyway. Yixing hides a sleepy grin behind his hands.

"I always come here when I'm in this part of Tokyo." Jongin takes a bite of pastry. "Which, it turns out, is pretty often considering how often SM likes to send idols over here like dancing ponies to sing in a language none of us understand. Do you like it?"

"I think I like it." Yixing looks around, fingers skating across the faded tablecloths and eying the old French movie posters on the wall. "It's cozy." It’s almost monochrome, which is the way things look in Yixing’s dreams.

"And most of the clientele is older," Jongin adds. "Not so into idols, you see."

"Ah." Yixing takes a sip of his coffee. "What's this?"

"My favorite," Jongin says. "Cinnamon spices and stuff. That's okay right?"

"I like cinnamon just fine," Yixing says, and lets his eyes curl into pleased crescents as the hot liquid warms his chest and belly.

It's not an unpleasant silence between them, as Yixing decimates six pastries to Jongin's four, and Yixing likes the gentle classical music playing just loud enough to be clearly heard but not loud enough to be talked over.

"I like this place a lot," Yixing says, and Jongin looks up from his mobile, where he's typing a text message, to look at Yixing incredulously.

"Have you been slowly pondering whether you like this place or not the whole time we've been eating? It wasn't a difficult question."

"What's the hurry?" Yixing asks. "I don't like to rush to conclusions."

"You like to amble to them and occasionally get lost in the woods?" Jongin scrunches his nose. "It's a really great cafe. The pastries are good, too."

"I can tell," Yixing teases, because Jongin's got bits of puff pastry clinging to his lip. He looks like a child. Yixing digs into his bag and pulls out his camera when Jongin looks back down into his phone, thumbs rabidly dancing across the touchscreen keyboard.

There's a lot of natural light, so he closes the aperture a bit and looks into the viewfinder.

It's been five years, he thinks, as his index finger lightly caresses the shutter. Five years and countless memories and a solemn promise to himself that he's breaking over pastry flecked lips and ocean-deep eyes.

He feels like there should be more fanfare. But this is an ordinary moment that only seems extraordinary to Yixing because it’s been so long.

Yixing takes the photo, and Jongin's head snaps up. "What are you even taking a picture of?" As he talks, little pieces of pastry blow onto the table, and he brings a mortified hand up to his mouth to wipe it clean. "Why would you even want a picture of that?"

"It looked like you," Yixing says. A boy who is sometimes a man, sometimes shy and sometimes cocky and always moving. That's the story for this photo, Yixing thinks. His heart is still hammering, but he feels a heady sense of accomplishment.

He snaps another photo as Jongin's tongue sneaks out to catch any remaining crumbs, and Yixing laughs as Jongin presses his hands to his cheeks.

"You're cute," Yixing says, and even he can hear the bemusement in his voice.

"Grown men aren't cute," Jongin grumbles, taking a slow sip of coffee and setting his phone down on the edge of the table, like he thinks if he looks at it again Yixing's going to take another unexpected photo.

"You are." Yixing sets his camera down in his lap, and picks up his own coffee. "You're really cute."

Jongin pouts, and that's even cuter. "I'm an Asia-wide sex symbol, and you're sitting in front of me holding a paisley patterned coffee cup and wearing a sweatshirt with a unicorn on it, calling me cute."

"Exactly." Yixing smirks. Jongin looks at him, face caught in a strange expression of chagrin, and Yixing feels pleased. "So where are we going today, sex symbol?"

"Anywhere we want," Jongin says, and his smile is radiant.

They wander around the Odaiba area, which despite the dreary weather is full of people. Jongin tugs on a baseball cap and sunglasses, which Yixing thinks is supposed to be a disguise, but Jongin’s mouth is very distinctive so Yixing doesn’t think it’s a very effective one.

“That’s Fuji TV right there,” Jongin says. “I’ve got an interview with them tonight.”

“Really?” Yixing looks up at the futurist steel building, with its sphere-shaped observatory, and immediately lifts his camera, taking two shots. “The rain might be to heavy for a good shot.”

“But it’s only drizzling?”

“For shots of buildings, rain can really ruin things.” Yixing puts the cap back on his lens. “With the newer digital cameras you can sometimes get interesting shots, but it’s not quite…”

“Ideal, right?” Jongin moves closer, and their arms bump. He seems actually interested. “Sorry, I don’t really take pictures, but I love to look at good photography.”

“Why don’t you take pictures?”

“I’m too much of a snob for my own efforts,” Jongin says, and Yixing laughs. Jongin comes in closer again, and Jongin’s warmth is welcome in the chill.

They walk all the way down to the Rainbow Bridge, and Yixing takes a few photos of the view.

“This is an artificial-“ Jongin tastes the word, rolling it around on his tongue like he’s not sure if it’s the right one. Yixing keeps forgetting that Mandarin is learned, for Jongin, not the language that comes out even when he isn’t thinking. “A man-made island? So we’re right in the middle of Tokyo Bay.”

“It’s gorgeous,” Yixing says. Taking pictures of the landscape is familiar, even if this particular view is not. He knows just how to adjust for the lighting and hold the camera so the horizon lines are straight. “The water is so calm.”

"You wanna go out there?" Jongin asks, grin stretching wide across his face as he tugs on the sleeve of Yixing's jacket. "Let's go out."

"Onto the water?" Yixing asks, shifting his camera bag to his other shoulder. "Is that okay? That looks like a ferry. Do we know where it goes?"

Jongin nods excitedly, pulling his baseball cap lower on his forehead and pushing his sunglasses up higher on his nose. "Yeah, it goes to Asakusa. Do you want to go to Asakusa? I’m going to check if it’s okay, right now." He pulls out his mobile phone, and starts talking rapidly in Korean, and Yixing thinks it's Chanyeol's low voice on the other end of the line. Yixing is pretty sure he hears Jongin asking for permission to go out on the water, or maybe to go to Asakusa, whatever that is; Yixing's Korean, as Jongdae reminds him whenever he gets the chance, is mostly terrible, so he’s just guessing.

But before he knows what's happening, they’ve got 760 yen tickets and they're passengers on a small ferry that's floating out on Tokyo Bay, clouds casting a gray hue across the water as Jongin finally takes off his sunglasses and hat and lets his hair blow in the wind. Most of the ferry is seats within sided glass walls, but they’re on the back deck. Jongin seems comfortable in the chill.

"Free, for just a little while," Jongin says. There aren't too many others on the boat. Two parents and their toddler are on the other side of the deck, and the little boy is sitting on his father's shoulders as the mother points at buildings on the shore. It's rainy today, and it’s getting colder, so there's not a huge call for ferry trips, Yixing figures.

Yixing lifts his camera up as Jongin leans back against the railing and tilts his head up towards the sky. His hair is matted and sweaty from being trapped under his LG Twins baseball cap, the same team Minseok likes, and his eyes are closed, eyelashes dark against his skin. His zip up hoodie falls gracelessly from one shoulder. Yixing snaps a photo.

Jongin looks at him in surprise. “You’ve got to stop doing that!” He runs his fingers through his hair, freeing it of matted tangles, and Yixing laughs at him. "I wasn't ready!"

"Yes you were."

Jongin pauses, and studies Yixing. "You're so weird," he says, but it's not really an accusation so much as an observation, and Yixing doesn't particularly disagree.

"Sometimes, yeah," Yixing answers. "But you looked like you, just then." Yixing turns away from Jongin's curious stare, and points up at the sky. "This is perfect lighting now that the rain’s stopped."

"Really?"

"Yes," Yixing says. "Think of it this way. The sun is like a bright studio light, but clouds are like gentle diffusers; they make the light softer. Photographing a football match would be hard, but not photographing you, even if you are a fidgeter."

"I'm not used to taking pictures... outside of a studio. I guess in Korea there are the fans, with their big professional cameras." Jongin mock-frowns. "And I don't fidget. You make me sound twelve."

"You do so fidget. And isn't my way of taking photos more fun than a studio?" Yixing asks, and offers a tiny heart with his hands after he lets his camera fall to rest against his chest, handing from its strap.

"Infinitely," Jongin says, and Yixing smiles at him broadly. Jongin's eyes go round, and he flushes.

"What?" Yixing asks, and Jongin shakes his head.

"It's nothing," Jongin says, and he spins, bringing his hands up to grab onto the railing so he can lean dangerously far forward. Yixing walks over to stand next to him, grabbing a fistful of Jongin's sweatshirt and pulling him up. Jongin's sweatshirt is warm. So is his neck, when Yixing's fingers accidentally brush against the skin there. "I've just haven’t seen you smile like that, before."

Jongin doesn't meet his gaze. "Oh." Yixing lets his hand fall from Jongin's sweatshirt. "Well, you haven't known me that long. I smile a lot."

"But not like that," Jongin says. "You always look just the tiniest bit lost." Yixing's breath catches as the wind whips particularly harsh, blowing Jongin's hair into his face. He sputters, and it breaks the moment.

Yixing chuckles even as he raises his camera again and catches the moment, snapping three, four frames as Jongin snorts and pushes his hand back through his hair.

"You're a menace, with that thing," Jongin says. "Why did I agree to this?"

"Because I promise to make you look like you," Yixing replies, and Jongin licks his lips. They're cracked, from the earnest fall weather, and it's too cold to be out on the water, but Jongin had felt warm enough when Yixing had been standing closer.

"Right," Jongin says, and he reaches forward and grabs Yixing's wrist. His fingers burn like fire. "We should go inside; you're shivering."

"I hadn't noticed," Yixing says, and it's true. He'd been distracted by the mirth in Jongin's eyes and the pleased and open twist to his lips, and his jacket over his sweatshirt had seemed almost ample in the face of that.

"Lost in your art?" He sounds almost wistful. He looks soft; purples and pinks, and Yixing tries to bleach them away in his mind and strip the image down to grayscale, but he can’t, for some reason. "Sometimes dancing is like that, for me."

"Only sometimes?" Yixing’s careful not to press, but Jongin withdraws anyway.

"Let's go inside," Jongin says, and his expression closes, and now, yes now, Yixing feels the cold.

Once they’re inside, they take two seats near the window, and Jongin slumps down in his seat, resting his cap over his face as Yixing watches the sights out the window. The pass under several bridges, and soon Yixing’s drawn back to Jongin, watching him instead of the view.

Jongin’s breath evens out, like he’s dozing, and he head lolls to the side, coming to rest on Yixing’s shoulder. His cheek is so soft, and like this, he looks young. The sun chooses that moment to slip out from behind the clouds, and it casts a golden glow across his face.

Yixing’s heart beats a little faster.

Jongin wakes up when the ferry docks in Asakusa. He’s drooled a little, which makes Yixing laugh because it reminds him of Lu Han in their Intro to the History of Photography class during university. He’d constantly dozed off, eyes fluttering, and Yixing’d usually had to kick him to wake him up. ”It’s not fair,” Lu Han’d always said. ”The professors just can’t tell whether you’re awake or asleep.”

“I’m sorry,” Jongin says, with a grin. “Your jacket’s worth a lot of money to a crazy fan in Korea now, though.” Yixing raises an eyebrow, and Jongin ruffles his own hair, carefully putting his hat back on. “I’m just teasing.”

He has wrinkles in his cheeks caused by the bunched up fabric of Yixing’s jacket. Yixing fires off two shots, clicking the shutter rapidly before they fade, and Jongin curses under his breath.

“I don’t know if there’s a shutter speed fast enough to catch you,” Yixing says, and Jongin’s eyelashes flutter.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about half the time,” Jongin says. “It’s like you’re speaking through a fog.”

Yixing punches him gently in the arm, like he does when Lu Han teases him, and Jongin rolls away from it, laughing.

Yixing uses up four rolls of film in Asakusa, as Jongin stands arms outstretched on the temple steps at Sensoji, Jongin marveling at the seventh century construction while Yixing marvels at the wild look of excitement in his eyes.

The way Jongin goes from spell-casting stage performer to eager child is even more stark from behind his camera lens.

They walk down the Nakamise shopping street, Jongin ribbing Yixing every time he collects a new traditional snack to try, but it’s Yixing who laughs when Jongin likes them all and ends up eating three skewers of kibidango, millet flour cakes covered in soy bean powder, getting the green powder all over his nose and cheeks.

And through it all, Yixing takes photo after photo of Jongin’s laugh and Jongin’s faux-angry face and Jongin’s distracted face as he tries to remember how to count Japanese money.

It’s like now that he’s taken the first photo, he can’t stop. He just wants to keep taking and taking until he gets the shot that says Jongin in big bold print.

Jongin is never still, and Yixing knows half the photos will be blurred or Jongin’s hand will be in front of his face, his thick silver EXO ring throwing off the exposure, or Jongin’s eyes will come out flat instead of flashing.

When they take the ferry home, Yixing reaches up and wipes some of the green powder from Jongin’s nose with his finger. Jongin crosses his eyes to follow the finger, but then remembers he’s in public and straightens his back.

“I had fun,” Jongin says. “Back when I first debuted, I’d never have really been allowed around without my manager.” Jongin scowls and scrubs at his face. “But it’s been a while now. Things are a little better. This didn’t feel like work.”

Yixing starts, because he’d forgotten, in between the touring and the walking and Jongin’s lame jokes, that this was a project.

He purses his lips. “It didn’t,” Yixing agrees.

Jongin sighs. “If only everything could be this fun.” He looks at Yixing. “It’s okay, taking pictures, if you take them. I don’t mind it, then.”

Yixing’s camera feels heavier in his hands.

”I don’t really like having my picture taken, but I don’t mind it when you take pictures of me,” she’d said. She’d rested her hand on his thigh. Her fingers had been thin and long.

“You still here?” Jongin asks, a little quieter.

“Yes,” Yixing says. “I’m still here.”

They have dinner at a udon restaurant with Baekhyun, EXO’s fashion coordinator, a sharp-witted, deceivingly soft-spoken man who spends the majority of the meal slyly insulting Jongin’s ‘disguise’ and peppering Yixing with questions about his current projects, and Yixing ends up talking a lot, about train stations and graffiti and trees, and Jongin and Baekhyun are both listening so attentively it’s unnerving.

“My mom has one of your books,” Baekhyun says, in slow, careful Korean. “The one about skyscrapers.”

“The one with all the pictures of Manhattan,” Jongin says, and then crosses his arms when both Yixing and Baekhyun turn to stare. “I like photography,” Jongin says defensively.

Yixing beams at him, and Jongin relaxes.

Baekhyun and Yixing walk back to the hotel alone after Chanyeol drops by to pick Jongin up for his interview.

Baekhyun presses the elevator button as they communicate in a strange mix of their languages, gesturing hands making up for verbal gaps.

“I can’t wait to see how the book turns out,” Baekhyun says, when they arrive on Yixing’s floor.

Yixing waves as the elevator doors close, and retires to his room.

Kris calls that night, long distance on his hotel phone.

"It took you this long to start feeling guilty about conning me into this?" Yixing doesn't say hello, or ask who it is, because he'd only given Kris and his grandmother his hotel information and his grandmother would never waste the money to call.

"Well, it actually hit yesterday night, but I held myself back," Kris says, laughing at himself even as he allows a little bit of anxiousness to seep through. "Is everything going okay?"

"Yes." Yixing shifts his bag of nuts out of his lap to lie next to him on the bed. "Jong- Kai is doing a TV show right now, so this was a good time to call, too."

"I'm really sorry," Kris says. "But I--"

"It's fine," Yixing says, and he means it. "I don't know why it's so important to you that I start taking pictures of people again. I don't know why it's important to anyone, but... As far as projects go, this is an interesting one."

"Yixing," Kris says, and he hesitates for a moment; just enough time for Yixing to realize that Kris isn't sure how to word something. "You know how... You know how I said Kai's photos looked a little dead?"

"I remember." Yixing absently pops a peanut into his mouth. Vacant eyes that look nothing like Jongin's looking out from subway billboards.

"Well," and Kris sighs, and Yixing can imagine him shifting in his high-backed leather office chair, moving his stapler around because he's not sure what else to do with his hands. His tie is probably loose, and he's undoubtedly got his one desk light on and his third cup of coffee for the day sitting to his left, where he definitely doesn't keep any important papers. "So did yours."

"What?" Yixing asks.

"So did yours." Kris clears his throat. "This just seemed like what you both needed."

"What we both... needed?"

"I have to go," Kris says, gruff voice disguising the natural affection Kris thinks isn't obvious to all his friends despite his often rather stern demeanor. "But I hope the rest of your trip goes well."

"I'm coming back tomorrow night," Yixing says. His hand tangles in the phone cord, wrapping the spiral about his index finger as he closes his eyes.

"Have a safe flight, then. Send me your details and I’ll pick you up," Kris says, and Yixing hears the dial tone.

'Mine were dead, too,' Yixing thinks to himself, standing up from his bed and grabbing a change of underwear on his way to the shower.

He thinks about it under the hot water as he showers, fingers sinking into his hair as he ponders Kris's statement.

It's still rattling around in his head as he towels dry and brushes his teeth over the sink.

Jongin's hand had been so warm under his own, and as he'd taken the picture, he'd felt completely and totally awake for the first time in a long time.

"What we both needed," he murmurs to himself, and he tries to picture Jongin on stage, dancing to the beat of that loud music and soaking in the cheers of the crowd, and Yixing can recall it in perfect clarity.

It's too much to think about, so Yixing turns out the lights and pulls up the covers, and goes to sleep.



#



Yixing’s first exhibit goes up when he’s eighteen. It’s called “Goodbyes,” and he’d traveled around the world photographing divergences; moments when people part. It’s hard to watch people separate, but Yixing is fascinated by the way that even when they are meters away from each other, lovers’ hands still seem connected by thin threads, and the way dogs know when their masters are leaving.

Yixing doesn’t look at the photos after he submits them to the gallery following the final round of editing. His grandmother silently attends the opening and takes a booklet; leaving it on the kitchen table, but Yixing ignores it.

Goodbyes had kept Yixing snapping photo after photo until he’d had to say his own.

He sets his grandfather’s camera on the corner of his desk in his bedroom and doesn’t touch it for seven months.



#



The second day, they can’t go outside. They go down to the lobby and there are people waiting for Jongin downstairs; the fans have found out what hotel Jongin’s been staying at, so they’re trapped inside.

“Some of their cameras look as expensive as mine.” Yixing scratches the side of his face. “And this is my job.”

“You don’t have to stay,” Jongin says. “You can go out exploring and I can watch TV or something. You didn’t sign up to be stalked, just to take pictures.” His shoulders slump forward, and Yixing pauses to consider. He could go out, and take pictures inside subway stations for his other project. He’d snapped a couple yesterday, but he knows he’d been bumped into by someone for at least one of them. He could walk around closer to the amusement park nearby and snap photos of the graffiti on the walls.

But Jongin’s brow is furrowed and his mouth is tight and he’s a study in frustration, and Yixing knows what it’s like to be trapped, even if he’s never been trapped quite like this.

“You don’t understand any of the television shows,” Yixing replies, after a long silence. “Your Japanese is as terrible as my Korean. Besides, without you I’d probably just get lost.”

“Or forget you were walking in the first place,” Jongin says, lips curving up with what is likely a memory of one of Yixing’s countless adventures running into street signs or pedestrians yesterday.

Yixing thinks it’s too early in their acquaintanceship for Jongin to already be making the same jokes as his longtime friends.

“We could play cards.” Yixing grabs the hem of Jongin’s shirt and pulls him back towards the elevators. “My room is small but I don’t have a famous face and room service is just a phone call away.”

“If you speak Japanese,” Jongin says, but his stormy expression is lightening.

“The word for pizza is universal,” Yixing says, and he pulls a little harder, and Jongin follows.



TIP 06



Sometimes photographers take photos out of focus on purpose. Capturing just the subject and letting the background fade away, nice and soft and fuzzy so the eye has nowhere to go but toward the closest object in the picture—the one thing in focus in a sea of amorphous shapes.

Yixing takes several photos like this when Jongin leans in too close to his camera, making hearts with his hands and looking through the shape with one almond eye as Yixing laughs and sputters and tries to keep Jongin from touching the lens.

He knows how the pictures will turn out because of where the f-stop is set, and Jongin is so close that everything else looks far away through the viewfinder, and when he squints it fades into nothing.

In the end, pictures that are out of focus like this just leave you concentrating on the one close subject. It’s just like how Yixing sees things in real life; Jongin in front of a background that fades away. That, Yixing thinks, is art imitating life.



#



Yixing is dreaming. He is on the road again. His grandfather’s camera feels so heavy as he tries to take a step forward. He can feel the rocks underfoot.

The horizon is dark, this time, but in lighter grays he can see her, standing there, arms akimbo as she beckons him with one arm, the other finding a place on her hip.

”Hurry up, Zhang Yixing!” she says, and Yixing starts to run.

In the end though, he wakes before he reaches her, throat closed and fingers clutching at his sheets.

The colors-- of his pale pink sheets and his green T-shirt-- burn his eyes.



#



They leave on different flights. Jongin back to Seoul and Yixing back to Beijing.

Kris picks him up at arrivals, already wearing one of his sleek knee-length wool coats, mobile in his hand as he checks his mail, small frown on his face.

“You look a little brighter,” Kris says.

“You still look exactly the same,” Yixing replies frankly, and he turns up the radio.




#



"He's good-looking," Lu Han says, and Yixing jumps. "Nice smile."

"How'd you get in here?" Yixing distractedly waves Lu Han over to his work table, and Lu Han shuffles over obediently-- well, as obediently as he does anything, which means it takes him a few moments because he has to peek into all of Yixing's open drawers and push stuff around on his other desk.

"I know where you keep the spare key. I thought I'd have to rouse you from bed, but look at you, all awake and productive. One day I'll come in here and steal your old medium format camera."

"That was my grandfather's, and if you touch it, I'll break your hands." Yixing's not joking but Lu Han laughs at him anyway, slapping his butt before he sidles up next to him.

"They came out well."

Yixing's just taken them off the wire. He's still got the blinds closed, so it's a bit dark in the room, but he does have a single light on by the door. It doesn't feel like midmorning.

"I only like those ones of Jongin," Yixing says, pointing at the seven photos he has at the top of the desk. The rest are in haphazard piles, Jongin's smile mocking him from beneath dead eyes as Yixing shifts through them wondering if any of them are 'maybe's. "Just those seven. I took five rolls of film." Another roll of Jongin kicking his butt at cards. Yixing kept forgetting what cards Jongin had, distracted by the way the corners of his eyes had crinkled when he chuckled.

"You're out of practice." Lu Han rests a hand on his shoulder, and Yixing leans into it.

"It's not that." Yixing tosses a handful of photos down on top of the pile. "It's that I feel almost... these pictures are inadequate."

"It was only your first time shooting with him," Lu Han says. "And there's nothing wrong with these pictures. They really aren't as terrible as you seem to think. Actually, they're really good. The lighting, and the lines of his face-- these are all photo book quality."

"No," Yixing says. "Not his photo book."

"Why are you being so hard on yourself? I thought you were only grudgingly doing this?"

"You've seen him." Yixing cars a hand through his hair and takes a calming breath. "These pictures look so still."

"They are photographs." Lu Han chuckles, patting Yixing's shoulder again. He smells like honey, a bit. "They're supposed to be still. Otherwise they'd be a movie."

"The photographs are supposed to be still but still capture the motion. Still capture the way his skin crackles with energy even when he's just sitting there-" Yixing bites down on his lower lip. It stings.

"Oh," Lu Han says. "I see." Yixing turns toward him, and Lu Han’s eyes are sparkling.

"What?"

"It's nothing," Lu Han replies, but there's laughter lurking in the edges of his speech and Yixing narrows his eyes, squinting at Lu Han the way he squints through a viewfinder.

"Why are you laughing?"

"You're rather attached to him already." Lu Han smirks.

"No." Yixing wants to clarify. "Not him; the project. I just. I promised him."

"Promised him what?" Lu Han is shuffling through more of he photos, fingers careful to only grab edges and not leave fingerprints on the image.

"That I'd take pictures that look like him. That photographs of him didn't have to look like a stranger."

"Hmm," Lu Han says. "That's a big promise, especially considering you haven't taken pictures of people in years. Longer than I’ve known you."

Both of them purposefully keep their backs turned to the photograph printed oversize that hangs on the wall behind them. Yixing hadn't done that print. His grandmother had, when he was nineteen and first moved out to this place. "This is a great photograph" she'd said. "And an important one."

Yixing thinks it's more of a ghost that haunts him than a preserved memory.

"I can't help but want to do it," Yixing says, and Lu Han shakes his head.

"Because you're a perfectionist," Lu Han says. "It's one of your few good qualities."

"You said that like I have a lot of bad qualities," Yixing jokes.

"You do." Lu Han digs a finger into his side. "You probably just conveniently forget them whenever you can."

"I don't conveniently forget-" Yixing smiles when he realizes Lu Han has deftly changes the subject, guiding them away from more prickly subjects into a place where Yixing feels more comfortable.

He's always appreciated that about Lu Han. He knows when to press and when to pull back.

"Why don't you take a break?" Lu Han asks. "I originally came over to see if I could convince you to head up to 798 and help me coerce duizhang into buying us lunch." Coerce probably means break things on Kris’s desk until he gets desperate enough to bribe them with food to get out of his office.

"Sounds like a plan." Yixing scans the table once more, looking at the photographs at the upper edge of the table one last time; Jongin caught in surprise as the wind shifts through his hair and tangles in front of his eyes. Jongin, with his head thrown back as he looks up at the cloudy autumn sky, the sea behind him. Jongin, flecks of pastry on his lips as he looks up in surprise. The photos are in black and white, but the moments are in sharp, clear color in his head when he conjures them up. He remembers the warmth of Jongin's cheek on his shoulder as he dozed. "A break would be good."

Yixing needs to remember that this is a project. Jongin is his client, and Yixing might be doing this for the sake of his art but getting too attached is painful and terrible and one of the reasons Yixing doesn't take photos of people anymore. He doesn't want to be responsible for all those little fragments of soul he collects.

"Yeah," Lu Han says, and now his gaze is soft. He wraps his fingers around Yixing's wrist and pulls, and Yixing realizes that he'd gotten lost in his thoughts again. "Good." He looks like he wants to say something else, but he doesn't.

Yixing's grateful, because as much as he's unsure about the question, he is certain he doesn't know the answer.



#



When Yixing looks, really stops and looks, at the photo that made him famous, it makes him sick.

When he’d taken the photo, he’d thought it was poignant. That they way she was crying as he shifted the weight of his bag on his shoulder was a temporary sadness.

The thing about photographs, Yixing knows now, is that a photograph, unlike a moment, is forever, and sometimes, even years later, when he looks at a photo, he can never escape the things he felt when he took it.

This is how he’ll always remember her, he knows. A temporary sadness that he’s enshrined permanently in his heart.



#




“Hello?”

“Hi, it’s… it’s Jongin.”

“Oh,” Yixing says, pausing in the middle of the sidewalk until someone walks into his back and he remembers that he can’t stop here. He starts walking again, adjusting his backpack with one hand as he keeps presses the phone to his cheek with the other.

“I got your phone number from Chanyeol, who got it from Kris—I hope that’s okay.”

“Yes, of course,” Yixing says. There’s no reason his throat should feel so dry, but it does. “Did you need something?”

“I wanted to ask about the pictures,” Jongin says. “Have any of them turned out okay?” It sounds rehearsed, almost like…

“A few,” Yixing says. “Is that all?”

Jongin’s quiet for a moment. “I guess. Sorry to call out of nowhere-“

Yixing’s late to meet his publisher, but he finds himself hesitant to hang up. Even Jongin’s voice seems colorful, Yixing thinks. “No,” he says. “I’m just late for a meeting. Can I call you back later?”

“Oh,” Jongin says. “I have a show tonight.”

“Okay,” Yixing says. “That’s fine. I just thought-“

“So why don’t I call you?”

Yixing doesn’t know if he likes the way his pulse is thrumming so loudly in his ears. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. He doesn’t remember making friends being so hard, even if he is a little weird. “Sure. Do you have my-“ He stops himself from asking if Jongin has his number just in time, because obviously he has his number. Yixing feels like a child on his first day of school, and he’s getting later and later for his meeting.

“I’ll be in China next week,” Jongin says. “You should come to the show.”

“Maybe,” Yixing says. “If you ask nicely.”

Yixing doesn’t really expect Jongin to call that night, but he does. Jongin rambles about performances and costume changes and Yixing can imagine his face; the way his nose scrunches when he laughs and the way his lips curl up when he talks about something Sehun’s said, or the way he frowns when he talks about Chanyeol’s loud way of talking but can’t quite suppress the affection. It’s weird, because Jongin hasn’t been a part of Yixing’s life long enough for Yixing to have memorized all of that.

It’s also weird because Yixing is pretty sure the next time he sees Jongin it’ll feel like starting all over, and he’ll discover a thousand new things about the way Jongin speaks or the way Jongin’s eyes fall half-lidded when he makes one of his terrible jokes that no one thinks are funny.

They talk until Jongin is yawning more than speaking. “We should do this again sometime,” Jongin says, and it’s more of a question than a suggestion. “Next time you should talk more.”

“Yes,” Yixing says, and he can hear Jongin’s smile; conjure it in his mind as vividly as if he were looking directly at a photograph.



#




Yixing fell in love, once, in the negative space. He was seventeen and she’d had the softest laugh, and even softer hands, the same size as his own. He remembers her profile, and taking photos of her nose, and the way she’d swatted his camera away and pressed kissed to the corner of his mouth.

The moments he remembers most were not big things, but in the gaps between.

He’d memorized her smile too.

Yixing tries to photograph those moments, even now, because the negative space is often not the actual subject, but tells something interesting and revelatory all on its own.

He tells himself that he’s looking for the stories in between people, and that’s enough to keep him from asking an old woman in the subway for permission to take her picture.



#



“Wow, sounds like a romantic vacation.” Jongdae takes a sip of his beer, and Lu Han laughs behind his hand. While Lu Han’s distracted, Minseok pours enough salt on his rice that Lu Han’s face will screw up with disgust the next time he takes a bite.

Yixing figures best friends are allowed to get passive revenge like this. Besides, Lu Han is laughing at him.

“Shut up,” Yixing says. “He just has been wanting to go and he only gets a little bit of off-time a year. And I thought it would be fun to take some pictures there again.”

“I can’t believe he’s letting you take all these photos of him without makeup,” Jongdae says. “What kind of idol is he?”

Lu Han takes a bite of his rice and sputters. He glares at Jongdae, who is sitting across the table. “You.”

“I’m all the way over here!” Kris pats Lu Han’s shoulder consolingly. “I’m making Yixing’s life miserable right now, not yours.”

Lu Han gives him a wary glance as Minseok calmly sips his soup.

“I think we’re sort of friends,” Yixing says, and Jongdae sets his chopsticks down.

“You guys talk on the phone several nights a week for hours. You are obviously friends.”

“Well, he’s my subject. In a lot of ways, he’s my client.” Yixing takes a slow bite of peppersteak, and chews on it thoughtfully. “Getting along is required for me to do my job.”

“Yes, and I’m sure horrifically overworked pop stars spend hours talking to everyone they hire to do projects for them.” Jongdae looks at Yixing incredulously.

“I’m actually more surprised he gets Yixing to pay attention long enough to have these long conversations.” Lu Han switches his rice with Kris’s as Kris signals to the waiter to bring more water.

“Sometimes I do get distracted,” Yixing says, “but he usually falls asleep so it’s fair.”

“So it’s really just… silence? You’re on the line and not… saying anything?”

It sounds silly put like that, but Yixing has his photography to work on and he thinks Jongin, for some strange reason, likes just knowing Yixing is on the other end of the line. Yixing tries not to think about it too hard, because it’s confusing and strange, and Jongin makes Yixing feel a bunch of things he doesn’t really understand or even want to understand. All he knows as that even Jongin’s voice has color; gold and fuchsia, and Yixing can see it even when he closes his eyes and he shouldn’t see anything at all.

“Well,” Minseok says. “It’s Yixing, so it’s really not that weird. I mean, he’s here with us right now and it’s just awkward silence.”

“I can’t speak too often,” Yixing says. “Kris’s self esteem might not survive.”

“I am an innocent bystander,” Kris adds mildly, and then he carefully spits a bite of rice into his napkin. Lu Han grins angelically and Jongdae takes another sip of beer because he knows if he laughs Kris will kick him under the table.

None of them say anything for a moment. Yixing thinks about how Jongin had asked him, with trepidation, if Yixing would like to go to New York with him.

“There isn’t someone else you’d like to take?” Yixing had asked, and Jongin had made a low sound in the back of his throat.

“Well, Kyungsoo is on tour,” Jongin said, and Yixing knew that was Do Kyungsoo, another idol that he thinks might be Jongin’s best friend. “And Zitao and Sehun both have work.”

“So I’m your last resort,” Yixing had said, and Jongin had sighed.

“No,” Jongin said. “I was going to ask you first anyway.”


“It’s just the chance to take more pictures,” Yixing says, as firmly as he says anything, and uses his spoon to take a big scoop of rice.

It tastes strongly of salt. Jongdae spits out his beer and Kris is carefully looking elsewhere. Yixing stops and chews it thoughtfully, before swallowing.

It’s not bad, but Yixing’s survived Jongdae’s cooking and after that, this is nothing.

“Kind of funny how you went from not wanting to take any pictures of people to flying to New York to do it,” Lu Han says, leaning forward. “What a nice change.”

Now Yixing can taste the salt. It stings on the edges of his tongue.






part iv



Date: 2012-09-17 07:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] goldengutgirl.livejournal.com
He feels like there should be more fanfare. But this is an ordinary moment that only seems extraordinary to Yixing because it’s been so long.

Yixing takes the photo, and Jongin's head snaps up. "What are you even taking a picture of?"


I swear I don't know how you can just write everything I like or that gives me feels like this. Natural morning light in a nondescript but pretty Japanese cafe and a subject not paying attention---these are the settings my dreams are made of. Japanese photobooks are the things that started me off. Sigh. I just stopped reading for a bit because sigh. No words anymore.

And sob you just made them walk around in overcast weather in Tokyo I want to shake you senseless so bad right now jdskfjlksdhfljds (I caught a few typos but I don't mind at all because it doesn't take away from anything as I read.)

”I don’t really like having my picture taken, but I don’t mind it when you take pictures of me,” she’d said. She’d rested her hand on his thigh. Her fingers had been thin and long. I WAS HAPPY UNTIL THIS MOMENT.

The thing about photographs, Yixing knows now, is that a photograph, unlike a moment, is forever, and sometimes, even years later, when he looks at a photo, he can never escape the things he felt when he took it.

This is how he’ll always remember her, he knows. A temporary sadness that he’s enshrined permanently in his heart.


:(
D:
I AM EXTREMELY JEALOUS AND D;

Yixing fell in love, once, in the negative space. He was seventeen and she’d had the softest laugh, and even softer hands, the same size as his own. He remembers her profile, and taking photos of her nose, and the way she’d swatted his camera away and pressed kissed to the corner of his mouth.

EXTREMELY. SOBS.

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