Luhan/Kris, Luhan/Kai, one sided!Luhan/Lay
NC-17 | 18,260 words
The only thing harder than surviving the arena is living with the memories of it.
A/N: Hunger Games!au where the rebellion never succeeded
When he’s finally home, Yixing is there. Yixing who doesn’t ask him about Yifan or the Games, who just pulls Luhan into his arms and doesn’t let go for a very long time.
For a while, Yixing is his reprieve, his solace and Luhan holds on tight, clutches at his childhood friend, desperate and broken. He clings to the normalcy and familiarity of this person who has been in his life for as long as he remembers and he silently begs to be fixed.
Yixing who still works in his little workshop, the smell of wood and varnish clinging to his skin and his eyes are as warm and gentle as ever, somewhat sadder than Luhan’s used to, but not haunted like his own.
Luhan no longer has to work, but he tries to slot himself back into his old life, the familiarity of paper and machinery. He tries to ignore the shake in his hands and it takes Yixing and his father to pull Luhan away after he slices his finger and bleeds over a few dozen sheets of paper.
Yixing takes him out to the woods, back to their old spot near the lake and perhaps for the first time in their lives, they sit in silence, not knowing what to say to each other.
He can’t talk about the arena without shaking, can’t talk about the friends he made without remembering them dying. He can’t even begin to speak about Yifan, not when just being here is making Luhan choke up.
Luhan stays with Yixing and he tries to revert back to how he was before the Games. He tries so hard to forget, to open his heart to Yixing and let the other man heal him, but he can’t look at Yixing without thinking of Yifan and Yixing doesn’t deserve that.
Yixing is unfalteringly patient though, kind and generous, giving, giving, giving everything and not asking for anything and Luhan selfishly lets Yixing take care of him.
One night he dreams of Sehun on top of him, cold eyes and a colder smile, mouth twisted cruelly as he twists the dagger deeper.
He wakes up with his hands around Yixing’s throat and the fear in his friend’s eyes has him recoiling and aghast at what he has done. Yixing is fine in the end, faint bruises lining his neck and he reassures Luhan dozens of times, but Luhan is too appalled and scared of what he might do, that he leaves early for the Victor’s tour.
Yixing tries to stop him, but Luhan knows it’s the only thing he can do.
Jongin becomes his anchor.
As soon as he heard about Luhan wanting to get away from home, he had arranged to come and keep Luhan preoccupied and sane. Luhan wonders if he’d be able to face what’s coming if he didn’t have them, Hangeng and Jongin propping him up.
The Victor’s Tour is hell. Both of them have a lot of blood on their hands and it’s near impossible to stand in front of a crowd and speak of victory and glory when you’ve killed one of theirs.
Luhan’s learnt to just smile and nod, look proud, look somber, look sympathetic. They’re coached on what they should say and how to act and by the time the Tour winds down, Luhan’s perfected the art of looking like a Victor.
Looking and feeling are very different things though and a year later, when the next Games roll around, he’s still nowhere near whole.
The night before the new tributes head into the arena, he wakes up screaming and kicking and it takes him a long time to drag himself out of his head. It takes even longer to realize he’s being held tightly.
He doesn’t need to open his eyes to know it’s Jongin. There’s no one else now.
“I’m okay,” he clears his throat, needing to say it even though he knows he’s not fooling anyone.
Jongin doesn’t argue. He simply squeezes Luhan a little tighter. “Okay.”
“Okay,” Luhan murmurs back and he doesn’t try to move away.
He feigns sleep until Jongin’s breathing evens out and Luhan lets himself savour the warmth and solidness of the other boy’s embrace for another few moments before he pulls away carefully.
The windows are set to transparent tonight and the light of the moon washes over them. Luhan’s hand hovers over the bloody lip and the fresh scratch down Jongin’s neck.
I hurt everyone I care about, he thinks and his heart clenches when Jongin unconsciously reaches for him in his sleep.
The days after the end of a Game are hard for mentors, because beforehand it’s all training and preparation and during the Games, it’s all strategizing and intensity. Afterwards though, you are left exhausted and more often than not, weighed down by your failure.
In the quiet aftermath, there is nothing to distract from the ghosts, old and new.
Luhan runs into Jongin tearing his training room apart, knuckles bloody and eyes dark. He grabs his arm before the other can break his hand on the concrete and Jongin turns on him, slamming Luhan against the wall. Luhan braces himself for the hit, but it’s Jongin’s mouth that crashes against his, hot and desperate.
He doesn’t break free even though it wouldn’t be hard with Jongin so out of it. He doesn’t kiss back either though and Jongin pulls back, eyes now burning with something else entirely. The lust is expected, the hurt less so.
Luhan isn’t sure what to do, but then Jongin’s pulling away and running out without a word.
He’s left with his mouth tingling; mind racing and feeling completely spun off axis.
Jongin apologises about it the next time they are together, but Luhan shrugs it off, not wanting to speak about it.
It’s like trying to cover a fire with a piece of paper.
It works until they’re heading home, keeps the issue buried until the day the train is pulling into District 4.
“Why did you let me kiss you?”
Luhan doesn’t turn around. He’s had this conversation in his head before. “You were worked up and lashing out. It’s less destructive for you to take it out on me than yourself or someone else.”
Jongin’s voice is brittle when he speaks again. “Is that all there is to it?”
“What else is there?” Luhan says unkindly, because lust and pent up frustration he can handle, even if it had escalated into physical release. However, everything’s becoming much more complicated and his mind is going places it doesn’t need to.
It’s easier to lash out at Jongin then reflect on what it might all mean.
“Is it the scars?” His tone is casual as he shrugs off his jacket, but Jongin freezes.
Luhan glances at the other boy. “You want me, I can tell. But you don’t act on it. You look at me and then you turn away,” he explains. “Repeat over and over. I don’t mind, I’m just curious.”
“No, it’s not the scars.” Jongin’s expression is shuttered, but then something breaks and his voice is small when he admits. “It hurts to look at you sometimes.”
“If not the scars, then why?”
“It doesn’t matter. It’s not the scars,” Jongin states firmly, but he doesn’t elaborate.
Luhan believes him. Jongin doesn’t lie, so he asks again. “Because I am a physical reminder of the Games?”
“Yes,” comes the reply, but Jongin’s still holding back. Luhan bites his tongue and waits. After a moment, Jongin adds, “Kind of, but it’s not just that. Yes, you remind me of the arena, and it’s dark as hell, but my whole world is dark.”
“Jongin-” he starts, this conversation taking a turn into uncharted territory, but Jongin cuts him off, bulldozing on. It’s as if he can’t stop now that he’s begun.
“It’s dark everywhere, around me, inside me and-,” Jongin hesitates, eyes searching and he reaches out to put a hand against Luhan’s cheek. He looks almost childlike, wide eyed and scared. “The only light in this darkness is you.”
It’s silent for a very long time after that and Jongin is the one to withdraw, hand falling back to his side and he looks defeated, more so than any time during the Games.
“Jongin,” Luhan blurts out as the other turns to leave. He doesn’t owe Jongin anything, but his heart feels wounded. The apology sticks in his throat and he spirals in the rush of memories.
Sometimes it’s hard to look at you. You’re so bright.
In the end, all he manages to choke out is, “I’m no light, Jongin. Not even close.”
He doesn’t think he’s going to get a response the way Jongin stands rigidly in the doorway, but after a moment he lets out a miserable chuckle. “You don’t even know what you do to people.”
Then he’s walking away, without a look back and Luhan who has thought himself a shell with nothing left inside, is struck by a new level of emptiness.
It takes several years before Luhan stops laying himself open to his demons.
Yixing marries Seulgi eventually and seeing them happy, lifts a weight off Luhan’s chest. She’s weary of him, but Luhan understands.
He feels none of the uncertainty when he sees them together now, because everything has already changed and he understands perfectly what he’s feeling.
It’s nothing like what he felt for Yifan and it almost makes him laugh how clear hindsight is.
He attends their wedding, a small affair out in the woods with wild flowers and honey cakes. She wears a dress of pine green and gold and she blushes beautifully when Yixing takes her hand. There’s music and good food, simple, yet tasty, and it’s a sweet occasion.
He leaves before it’s over, tracing near forgotten footsteps into the heart of the woods. Luhan doesn’t stop until he’s by the lake. He climbs the tallest tree he can find and he sits there in silence with the wind in his face.
“Yixing is happy,” he whispers into the bark of the highest branch. He speaks of the wedding, of Yixing’s new bride, of the bright, happy smile Yixing can’t seem to wipe off his face. “He’s happy and I’m better. I’m better now, so don’t worry about us anymore, okay?”
The leaves rustling softly around him are his only answer.
Luhan doesn’t let that deter him though and a floodgate opens somewhere inside him and the words stumble out. His thoughts and feelings, fears and the memories that haunt him, the ones that soothes him; his life now as a Victor. Most of all, he says all the things he wished he had told Yifan, things he should have told the other when still could reach out and say the words right into his skin.
By the time he finishes, the moon is bathing him in its light. Luhan tilts his head up towards the stars, fingers outstretched, tracing the sky with tremendous gentleness. When he pulls back, his hand drops to his temple, a touch there and then down to the heart; the gesture finally carried through to the end.
When Luhan’s feet touch the forest floor, there are tears on his face, but his heart is lighter than it’s been for a long time.
He makes sure Taeyong and Lami are settled before he goes to find Jongin.
The other is nursing a drink, back turned to Luhan when he walks in. He walks up silently, stepping in beside the other.
Jongin is surprised to see him, Luhan can tell, but it’s masked well, the collected indifference pulled over his features within seconds.
“Jongin,” he starts, hesitant, but determined to see this through. The way Jongin tenses from that alone is enough to force him to continue.
“Jongin, look at me,” Luhan says, nearly a plea, fear of rejection coming through, bitter and sharp, when the other continues to stare ahead, not even looking in his direction.
He sucks in a ragged breath, hands balling into fists and Jongin does turn to him now, eyes widening in concern. “Luhan?”
He reaches out and grabs the corner of Jongin’s shirt, desperate. “Jongin, please.”
“Are you okay? Luhan, what’s wrong?” There’s alarm in Jongin’s voice and it soothes the knot in his chest.
“No,” he admits, his breathing evening out, but voice still catching on the words. “But I want to be. Isn’t that sad? I just want to be okay, not even happy, just not sad.”
“We could do a lot worse than okay,” Jongin says, his eyes hard and haunted, softening when he meets Luhan’s gaze.
“Come on,” Jongin instructs, leading him down the corridor and through two doors, which leads to a lift. Luhan doesn’t ask where they’re going, doesn’t need to know when it’s Jongin leading him.
They sit with their legs dangling over the side of the building, the ground a dizzying few hundred meters down. The wind whips at their faces and Jongin looks so battle hardened and weary; years older than he really is and Luhan remembers that day on the train, the wide eyed young boy who had laid his heart open at Luhan’s feet.
Luhan leans in and takes his hand. Jongin jerks in surprise, head swiveling sharply to face Luhan. When Luhan smiles back, there’s no holding back and something glorious sparks in Jongin’s eyes.
“I’m sorry it’s taken me so long.”
“It’s okay,” Jongin whispers, sounding almost winded.
Jongin untangles their hands so he can entwine their fingers. He starts to say something, but then cuts himself off, eyes hesitant and the fierce hope shadowed by doubt.
It’s Luhan who speaks first. “You once told me that I was your light. Do you still think that?”
Jongin’s expression grows guarded, but Luhan knows him well enough to know that he’s far from calm. After a moment, Jongin’s shoulders slump. “Yes, nothing’s changed. You’re still the only light in the dark for me.”
Jongin tenses, as if bracing himself for Luhan to hit him or to tear him down again.
“I can’t say the same back to you, but…Jongin,” Luhan continues, hand reaching up to cup the other’s cheek in a mirror of what happened all those years ago. “You are the brightest spark in my life and…with you, I don’t feel as if I’m about to extinguish into nothingness.”
He half expects Jongin to be angry, to pull away and shake him off, because he deserved better than this, better than this dented heart Luhan is offering after all this time. Instead, Luhan finds himself pulled into solid arms, tight enough to hurt and with such intensity, he finds himself breathless. All the words he had prepared no longer seem needed.
When Jongin finally pulls back, he turns back to look at the silhouette of the city, his eyes suspiciously wet. He looks more at peace than Luhan has seen him in years. “We’re going to be more than okay one day, Luhan.”
He doesn’t know how to reply to that, doesn’t know if it’s even possible, but there’s no uncertainty when he leans in and kisses Jongin.
When they pull apart, the cracks appear faintly around the edges, trees breaking through concrete, the look in Yifan’s eyes and his vision dips red, but Luhan clings to Jongin’s hand a little tighter and everything stills.
The stars are shining bright and Luhan wishes on any many of them as he can. By the time the night gives way to dawn, he can almost believe Jongin’s right.