Author: ANONYMOUS until reveals
Title: Step inside the Storm
Length: 2,977 words
Summary: There's another reason Junmyeon comes to this particular restaurant every Friday for dinner, and it's not the food, though it is excellent, or the view, though it is beautiful.
Notes: Thank you to everyone who keeps me going. This one's for you. A special thanks to the mods for being so understanding and to A, A, L and K who helped me with plot, casting suggestions and character descriptions; any errors are mine.
SUHO is inspired by CLAMP. Yura and Hyeri are from Girl's Day. Seungwan is Wendy from Red Velvet and Jimin is from BTS. Please see the end for further notes.
Junmyeon is staring at the page in front of him; the lines swirling as he blinks, tries to focus. Just this last page and we're finished. It's so hard to focus though, when he's running on fumes and coffee, the last time he slept only a distant memory. It's not that everyone else isn't busy; Yura is frowning at the paper, hatching in shadows and adding detailing, Jimin is affixing text and backgrounds and Seungwan is doing the inking; everyone has red eyes and huge mugs of coffee resting on the floor, because no one wants to risk spilling.
Myungsoo is standing in the doorway, watching Daniel leave; he's not saying anything, no speech bubbles, just silence in the white space filling the edges—Junmyeon doesn't remember, anymore, what the reason is. Chase after him! he thinks, as the pencil glides over the paper in fits and starts, fingers stretching out, ever so slightly, towards the back of the man receding from the frame.
When he sets his pencil down, Junmyeon feels like he's going to collapse into a puddle of eraser dust and graphite shavings, as he sets the last sheet next to Yura and stands, waiting for her to look it over. Junmyeon might be the lead artist in SUHO, but Yura is the real boss.
"You're getting tired," Yura says, when she finishes a particularly intricate pattern in the fabric of Myungsoo's shirt and sets the sheet aside. Junmyeon looks down at the floor, his fingers; he realizes, dimly, that they're shaking, a kind of fine quivering that means he's at the end of his rope.
"Jimin," Yura calls across the table; Jimin letters in the last bubble on the sheet and looks up, fineliner resting on his fingers. "Come over here and tuck Junmyeon into bed, okay?" Junmyeon lifts his head, mouth opening in protest, but Yura gives him a glare and he shuts up. Jimin just nods, he's tired too, they're all exhausted, but there's a sparkle in his eyes that nothing seems to be able to quench.
"Bye," Junmyeon says, hand flopping in sad attempt at a wave as Jimin pushes him out the doorway; Seungwan brushes her hair behind her ear and looks up, laughing at the way Junmyeon looks like he's walking through water.
"Jimin?" Junmyeon asks, as Jimin stands in the doorway to make sure Junmyeon actually gets into bed and doesn't make a detour to his desk to start plotting out the next chapter, something he's known to be guilty of. "What do you think about Step inside the Storm?" He pauses, elbow propping himself up against the nightstand as he waits for Jimin's answer.
"I think that Daniel is acting like a lovesick teenager," Jimin says, "but it's kind of cute." He shrugs. "I don't know; it's hard to talk about it in the middle of a chapter. But you know we're all in this together, right?" He looks at Junmyeon, his expression solemn, though the corners of his mouth lift up.
"Yeah, I know," Junmyeon says, flopping into bed and pulling the covers over his head. He listens to Jimin flicking off the light and closing the door carefully with a soft click.
I know, but sometimes it doesn't feel that way.
Whenever they're done a chapter—the sheets stacked up carefully, tucked into a folder and delivered into the expectant hands of Kyungsoo, their editor, who Junmyeon is secretly sure is some kind of serial killer on his off nights, or at least that's how it feels when they're late for a deadline and he's literally breathing down their necks—they all have things they do to unwind before starting the next chapter with a plot meeting. Yura goes home to her girlfriend, Hyeri, who's probably wondering whether she even has a girlfriend anymore after the pre-deadline crunch. Jimin stretches out all the knots in his muscles and unwinds by dropping in at the dance studio where some of his friends have a dance team and let him jump in when he has time. Seungwan takes to karaoke, singing out all the stresses she's piled up and beating out her frustrations on the tambourine; Junmyeon's heard that she's pretty popular and it's not surprising really, he's heard her voice before and he's pretty sure that if she hadn't gone into visual art she probably would have gone into voice.
Junmyeon always goes to his favourite restaurant, alone, and takes as long to eat as he wants, finally able to enjoy his food instead of cramming onigiri or sandwiches in his mouth between sheets. It's a standing Friday tradition, after he's stumbled into bed so late on Thursday that it's already Friday, and he doesn't get out of bed until he has just enough time to shower, slip into fresh uncrumpled clothes and step out the door.
Vanilla, the sign reads on the window, and he nods at the font; it never fails to make him smile, and he's still grinning when he's waved over to his regular tables by the window, a table for two, nestled against the glass, the bright lights of the street glittering through the dark. It's perfect for one.
There's a soft voice at his side, a hand reaches out to pull the chair out and Junmyeon lets himself be seated, reaching for the crisp white napkin to spread over his lap as he looks up and smiles at the server.
There's another reason Junmyeon comes to Vanilla every Friday for dinner, and it's not the food, though it's excellent, or the view, though it's beautiful. It's not even just the fact that they let him sit for as long as he likes, even pull out a sketchbook and start outlining ideas.
The reason's name is Jongin, as Junmyeon first read on the young man's name tag all those months ago, and Junmyeon won't tell anyone about him at all, not even Jimin, but Jongin is the person Junmyeon looks forward to seeing, the light at the end of the deadline tunnel, Friday supper with Jongin and Saturday to recharge before the week begins its decline into madness again.
Jongin doesn't bother bringing the menu anymore; they've long ago established they're past such trappings of formality.
"What kind of glorious mess has Seokjin stirred up in the kitchen today?" Junmyeon asks, smiling up at Jongin and pretending that his happiness is only because of the finished chapter and the excellent dinner he's about to embark upon. It has nothing to do with anything else.
"Sometimes," Seungwan says, looking up at Junmyeon from a page she's inking, "You remind me a lot of Daniel." Junmyeon has no idea what she's talking about.
"Should I tell you?" Jongin grins, "or do you want it to be a surprise?" Junmyeon could swear he winks, and his heart flip-flops in his chest. I'm just hungry. He coughs lightly into his sleeve, takes a breath.
"As long as there's no broccoli," he says, and what the heck decides to throw all caution to the wind as he winks up at Jongin before quickly looking down at him phone, not that he's gotten any messages. Yura, be proud of me. Jongin lingers for half a heartbeat before leaving to fetch his customary Pinot Grigio and, from the corner of his eye, it looks to Junmyeon like his cheeks seem more flushed than usual. It's probably just my imagination.
Jongin's back with the bottle, tipping it up for Junmyeon to inspect the label, their own little routine even though it's always the same wine and Junmyeon always pretends to consider it seriously for a moment before nodding and smiling—Jongin looks just the same as always, he meets Junmyeon's gaze directly and his brown hair glimmers gold in the light of the crystal chandelier.
Sometimes Junmyeon feels like a character in one of the stories he's writing, except he has no idea where the plot is heading and no chapter meetings with the rest of the crew to keep everything on course. He thinks about Myungsoo, watching Daniel leave.
I never say anything either, he thinks, but doesn't do anything about it, only smiles as Jongin brings the entrée, it's braised halibut with a delicate sauce, and the flavours melt on Junmyeon's tongue, like feelings that bubble up and disappear.
There's something lingering in the tips of his fingers, a story that needs to be told, and he's already pulling out his notebook before dessert to sketch out the story lurking in his subconscious, pulling it out through his fingers and the graphite tip sliding over paper as he waits to see what will happen next.
He's so distracted by the picture that's unfolding, Daniel turning back, Myungsoo stepping forward, their mouths meeting under the soft shadow of the cherry blossom tree, that he doesn't hear Jongin coming back to check on his progress and see about dessert.
His only warning is an intake of breath—Junmyeon's head snaps up, hand automatically moving to sweep the notebook aside but he only succeeds in spilling the pages out onto the floor, cascading in sheets of Daniel, Myungsoo, touches, kisses—
Everything is silent, for a moment. Junmyeon's mind is blank. He has no emergency exit for this.
Quietly, almost reverently, Jongin crouches down to pick up the most recent drawing: Daniel and Myungsoo, under the cherry blossoms.
"Oh," he breathes, a hushed sigh as he looks up from where he's crouched on the floor, his eyes wide as they meet Junmyeon's, "SUHO."
Junmyeon can't read his expression, he can't think, he leaves everything behind and bolts for the door.
"You what!" Yura is standing over Junmyeon's seat, glaring at him, her heels clicking ominously on the wood floor, and Junmyeon just wants to hide under the table, or crawl back into bed.
"I. . .didn't know what to do?" Junmyeon's gaze drifts over the faces of the others, but Jimin is frowning, even though his eyes are sympathetic, and Seungwan looks like she's trying not to laugh.
"You left your notebook at the restaurant," Yura says, counting off his transgressions on her fingers like it's kindergarten again, and he's been caught under the water table eating blue play-dough, mouth smudgy and fingers sticky. "You left without paying, you were rude, and you tried to pretend nothing was wrong." The weight of her frown is heavy, even though Junmyeon is used to it, because this time he really does know he's in the wrong.
"But. . ." he begins—
"But nothing," Yura says, twirling back to head for her seat where she flips her sketchbook open to a new sheet, her rich brown hair flipping through the air and following her like a tangible display of her frustration. "You're going to have to go back, apologize, and collect your notebook." She doesn't look up, pursed lips as she starts drawing in the tiny cherry blossoms like he'd begun to describe before the absence of his notebook had become glaringly apparent.
Jimin doesn't say anything, but he slips away to the kitchen and comes back with a travel mug full of coffee and a smile tucked in the creases around his eyes that seems to say, you can do this! as he rests his hand on Junmyeon's shoulder for a moment, a warm comforting presence before he leaves to start working on potential dialogue.
"Do you want me to call a taxi?" Seungwan asks, and Junmyeon shakes his head, that will be too fast for me to be able to work myself up to it, though he doesn't think he'll ever be ready. "Okay," she says, "but I called ahead and made you a lunch reservation and already paid for last night, so you owe me big time." She's grinning though, and Junmyeon doesn't know whether he's thankful or just scared.
"Thanks," he says, taking a gulp of coffee, "I guess I'll need the taxi after all." Seungwan just smirks, I told you so, and Junmyeon really has to stop thinking he controls anything around here as he takes his jacket off the hook by the door and heads down to the sidewalk, fingers tucked into his pockets so he doesn't do something so potentially life-threatening as call the restaurant and cancel the reservation.
"Good luck!" Yura calls, Jimin and Seungwan echoing after, and Junmyeon feels better knowing that they have his back, even if they're the ones pushing him out into the jungle.
Vanilla is different during the day. The bright sunlight shining through the windows is diffused through filmy white curtains, the shade of paint on the walls is more soft lilac than rich tan; everything is different. It's lovely, but Junmyeon feels off-balance somehow, like he's seen a different side of someone, a side he didn't expect.
"SUHO," Jongin said, and Junmyeon wondered later how Jongin had been able to recognize the the characters so quickly, put a name to the lines on paper.
He's waved to his usual table, but instead of cozy in a nook by the window, it's flooded with light, soft curtains waving and the green fronds of an oversized fern he'd never noticed before, somehow, in the shadows of evening. The chandelier glimmers overhead, pale blues and whites instead of gold, and the table linens are whites and dove greys.
Maybe Jongin doesn't work Sundays for lunch, Junmyeon hopes, fingers swaying sideways to gently knock the wood leg of the table, an old superstition he can't seem to shake.
His hopes are dashed though, when an all too familiar figure appears around the corner, in jeans and a white mandarin collar today, instead of the evening black and white uniform. Junmyeon swallows; he can feel a flush rising in his cheeks in embarrassment.
What am I supposed to say!?
"Um, hi," he says, his voice breaking and he just wants the ground to open up under him, swallow him from view. Jongin just stands there, an armspan away from the table, and looks at Junmyeon.
"You don't usually come for lunch," he says finally, and Junmyeon doesn't know how to react. He's used to drawing people on paper, playing god with his characters, not trying to figure out the intricacies of human interaction in the flesh, where words sting and glances burn.
"Is. . .is that a problem?" he asks, relieved that his voice doesn't crack this time at least, thank heaven for small favours, but he's still at an impasse.
"No, it's nice to see you again so soon," Jongin says, and the sharp lines of his face soften, resolving into a smile, as though he'd been waiting for Junmyeon's reaction too. "Would you like wine with lunch, or something lighter?"
Junmyeon asks for wine—to settle his nerves, there's no use in pretending that's not the main reason—Jongin leaves to get the Pinot Grigio but he stops him, finger accidentally grazing the sleeve of his shirt before Junmyeon jerks his fingers back, as though they've been burned.
"Um," he says, "Could I maybe try a different one?" Jongin looks at him, brow wrinkled slightly before he grins.
"Oh," he says, "a different wine!" Junmyeon wonders what Jongin had thought he meant, but he doesn't ask. They settle on a Pinot Gris, and clam chowder, and Junmyeon loves the flavour of the soup but it still feels like he's eating sand.
Finally, when Jongin comes back to top off his wine glass, Junmyeon takes the plunge.
"Jongin," he says—realizing as the name slips off his tongue that he's never actually said it before—Jongin freezes, wine bottle hovering on angle above the table, "I'm sorry about yesterday." Junmyeon knows he's flushing with embarrassment, it makes everything worse but at least Jongin isn't laughing as he fills the glass and steps to the side of the table.
"I have your notebook," Jongin says quietly, and Junmyeon looks up, the question he doesn't know how to shape running through his head. How do you know about SUHO? "I'm kind of. . .a huge SUHO fan, ever since Summer Storm, Haruma and Ryo and the tsunami of their lives," Jongin says, and his eyes are serious, and almost fascinated. "And then I went back and read all the volumes of Green Grass, Junpei and Seungheon, and I always wondered who wrote the stories I read under the covers with a flashlight, or tucked in the elbow of the tree in the backyard."
Junmyeon just sits, watching a smile bloom over Jongin's face as he talks about the characters that he, Yura, Jimin and Seungwan, that SUHO, have poured so much imagination and energy and thought into, and for the first time it actually feels like it's been worth it. Maybe we shouldn't be so private anymore, he thinks, Maybe it would be okay.
Jongin looks a little embarrassed when he stops talking, but Junmyeon just grins up at him, a thought popping into his head.
"Hey, do you want to come see the studio sometime?" he asks, spurred on by a kind of simple happiness, the same feeling he gets every Friday when he comes to Vanilla for dinner. Jongin's eyes get so big at his words that Junmyeon has to laugh, and suddenly everything is normal again. Except better.
"That would be. . .I don't even know what to say," Jongin says, the smile on his face Junmyeon almost feels blinded, his heart fluttering in his chest. "Are you sure. . .the rest of SUHO won't mind?"
"Don't worry," Junmyeon says, "They'll be just as excited," It's myself I have to worry about, he thinks, because Yura and Seungwan will read him in a heartbeat, if they don't know already, but it's okay.
"I'm so happy," Jongin says. Junmyeon grins back at him, sharing the moment in the light-flooded hall of the restaurant at lunchtime, and everything is perfect.
End notes: The manga title, title of this story and cut text are from a quote by Haruki Murakami from the book Kafka on the Shore; the plot and character names are drawn from this fanvideo. The manga title Green Grass is from a quote by Kenzaburō Ōe, and the plot and characters are drawn from this fanvideo. The plot and characters from the manga Summer Storm, as well as the theme of the title, are drawn from this fanvideo.
Japanese translations of the section dividers (taken from 純情テロリスト) are as follows:
1. Boys, be ambitious
2. All things are easy that are done willingly
3. Love does not follow logic
4. Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way