Word count: 1,861
Summary: Jongwoon and Ryeowook find that even after years of obligation to their respective families, they never really grow apart, even when they should. Set in post-band!verse.
A/N: This was written really quickly, in about an hour, but it’s been weighing on my mind for a couple of weeks, ever since my oppaaarrr prompted me in a conversation we were having. So this is for her, and also for shiryu_yugure and her love for angst.
The day before Jongwoon gets married, he fucks Ryeowook for what they've told each other will be 'one last time', for old times' sake, in the bedroom of the little apartment that they've shared for years since Super Junior's disbandment. At that time, no one batted an eyelid when they moved in together, Jongwoon staying on at SM as a vocal coach, Ryeowook choosing to focus on songwriting, because they'd been close for so many years, and it seemed only natural to everyone else that their friendship continued even after the band was over.
But then more than eyelids were batted when, almost 8 years later, both Jongwoon and Ryeowook were still living together, and both of them showed no signs of interest in marriage, or starting families. That was the point when Jongwoon's mother started forcing him to go for matchmaking sessions with daughters of family friends, and that was when both Jongwoon and Ryeowook realised that perhaps they had gone as far as they could go, in a society where settling down to start a family is expected of virtually every male.
So Jongwoon chooses Ae-ri; or rather, his mother approves of her and she was the first halfway decent-looking girl Jongwoon had been introduced to. Ryeowook met her, once, and smiled at her all throughout dinner while the bile rose in his throat and feelings of hate and envy rose in his heart, and later that night, he had clawed marks into Jongwoon's arms and back, scratched long red trails into him so he could look at them after and think to himself, Jongwoon belongs to me, me, me.
But it's over now, he thinks as he stands at Jongwoon's side as his best man, the day after Jongwoon had left his wife alone to come to him and hold him and make love to him for ‘one last time’, and watches Ae-ri, beautiful and radiant and glowing in her gown, walk down the aisle towards Jongwoon. And after they exchange vows, Jongwoon turns to look at Ryeowook with tears glistening in his eyes and rolling down his cheeks, and Ae-ri cries as well, because she thinks his tears are for her, and the congregation claps and cheers, because they think his tears are for her, but Ryeowook doesn't cry, doesn't cheer, because he knows Jongwoon's tears are for him, and it's more than enough that one of them have to cry.
After the ceremony is over and the happy couple drive off to their new home, Ryeowook returns alone to his (their) apartment. He sits on his (their) bed, and looks around at the suddenly empty room, Jongwoon's stuff all moved out a week ago to the house he's living in with Ae-ri now, and picks up the pillow Jongwoon used to sleep on, before pressing his nose into it and breathing in his scent.
The pillow's damp against his cheek before he realises he's been crying.
Jongwoon comes back a week later and pins Ryeowook against the wall of the bedroom, like he used to, and fucks him again, like he used to, for 'one last time', because he misses Ryeowook so much and yes, this is wrong and he shouldn't be doing this to his new wife even though Ryeowook is the one he loves, not Ae-ri, never ever Ae-ri.
"We won't do this again," Ryeowook tells him later, curled into the crook of his arm as if nothing had happened and no time had passed, and Jongwoon agrees.
"We can't, I'm a married man now," he says heavily, and Ryeowook watches as he gets up, dresses, and leaves.
Jongwoon comes back every week, for 'one last time'. Each time, Jongwoon tells Ryeowook he loves him. Each time, they tell each other they can't do this anymore. Each time, Ryeowook feels his heart break just a little bit more, but he never turns Jongwoon away.
Ryeowook stays over at Jongwoon and Ae-ri's home for a few weeks every couple of months because Ae-ri invites him to do so.
"I know it's hard to live alone, Ryeowook-sshi," she says, her large eyes glowing at him, and Ryeowook clenches his fists under the table, because try as he might he cannot hate this woman, a woman who has been nothing but kind to him and loving to Jongwoon. "I know how close Jongwoon-oppa and you are, so there's nothing wrong if you ever come by. Please do so more often; oppa always seems happier when you're around."
Ryeowook nods and thanks her, and Ae-ri smiles at him and gets up to make him lunch. Not for the first time, Ryeowook feels guilt wrap around his heart and squeeze it, because Jongwoon comes into the guest bedroom where he sleeps almost every night, and each time they always agree that it should be for 'one last time', when it never is.
Ae-ri introduces Minhee, her good friend, to Ryeowook, and it occurs to Ryeowook that the best way to break his dependence on Jongwoon would be to get married.
When he announces his engagement to Minhee, over a couples' dinner with Jongwoon and Ae-ri, Ae-ri shrieks with joy and hugs Minhee and him, before both women launch into loud and excited plans for the wedding.
Neither of them notices their husband and fiancé sitting staring at each other, completely unenthusiastic and unresponsive.
Jongwoon is Ryeowook's best man at his wedding, as everyone knew he would be. No one knows, however, when Jongwoon barges into the room where Ryeowook is changing into his suit and presses him against the dresser in his wedding suit, for 'one last time'.
When it's over, Ryeowook pushes Jongwoon off him, and says as coldly as he can, "This has to be the last time, Jongwoon. We're both married men now."
Jongwoon stares at him, and nods slowly. "It will be the last time." His hands reach out towards Ryeowook, and Ryeowook flinches slightly, but all he does is smooth out the wrinkles from the lapels of his jacket and adjust the crooked bow tie at his neck, sweeping away all evidence of their liaison, and Ryeowook bites his lip and tries not to grab Jongwoon, to pull him back on top of him, to hold him and never let him go.
After Ryeowook and Minhee have exchanged their rings, Ryeowook begins to cry, cries long and uncontrollably, and Jongwoon holds him in front of the whole church, his own face calm and tear-free, and Ryeowook knows how Jongwoon felt then, when he had married Ae-ri. He learns that the one leaving feels just as bad as the one left behind, and now they've gone through both.
It's harder for them now, because Ryeowook shares a house with Minhee, and Jongwoon has one with Ae-ri, and even though both couples meet a lot there is never any privacy. It's Ryeowook who hits upon the idea of using motels, and as if drawn like moths to a flame, they meet once a week, beanies pulled low over their heads and dressed in baggy hoodies, always a different motel in a different area, so that no one spots them and no one gets suspicious.
"This has to be the last time, Ryeowook," Jongwoon says one time, putting an arm over his eyes. "We can't keep doing this."
Ryeowook's about to open his mouth and reply, and then Jongwoon adds, "Especially not now, when Ae-ri is pregnant."
Ryeowook's mind reels in shock. Pregnant? Ae-ri is pregnant?
Jongwoon sits up then and looks at Ryeowook, and for the first time Ryeowook notices how there are lines around the corners of Jongwoon's eyes that never used to be there, and how there are strands of grey in his black hair, and he realises, with a start, how many years have passed, how long they've known each other, how long they've loved each other.
"I'm sorry," Jongwoon says, and there are tears in his eyes, and it makes Ryeowook think again - how many tears have they shed for each other, all these years they've been together and then not-together? "I love you. I'll always love you."
Ryeowook contemplates telling Jongwoon he loves him back - because he really really does, so much, that sometimes there's a physical pain in his heart when he thinks of him, or when he rolls over sleepily in the middle of the night to fumble for him but finds Minhee instead, or when he watches Ae-ri spoon-feeding him and remembers how he used to do it for Jongwoon, even way back when they were still in the band - but what comes out of his mouth is, "I really, really hate this motel. It's seedy and dirty and disgusting, and I don’t ever want to come back here."
He gets up and goes into the bathroom, and when he comes out Jongwoon is gone.
He stares at the empty bed for a moment, at the depression of Jongwoon's body that's still there, and passes his hand over it, feeling the warmth of Jongwoon that hasn't dissipated. And abruptly his knees give way and he slides to the floor, the rough carpet scratching at his bare legs, and cries, harsh, hoarse, racking sobs that shake his entire body.
He cries until the tears don't come anymore, and all that's left is his own shivering body and his broken heart. That's when he picks himself up and goes home to his wife.
Ryeowook goes to Jongwoon just two months after, because he can't hold back, and Jongwoon falls upon him like an addict, shaking and almost feverish in his desire, hands and mouth and tongue finding all the familiar spots on Ryeowook's body.
Then he informs Jongwoon that this is absolutely the last time, because Minhee is pregnant as well, and they both need to do their duties as husbands and fathers.
Jongwoon agrees, the shock in his eyes searing itself into Ryeowook's mind.
It's always 'one last time' after that, whenever Jongwoon and Ryeowook find the opportunity, and they always do, even as their wives' bellies get larger, even as Jongwoon's daughter is born first and then Ryeowook's, even as another two children follow for Jongwoon and one more for Ryeowook, even as the two families mingle and remain as close as siblings and their wives never realise that they love each other more than they love them.
Somewhere along the line, Ryeowook realised that 'one last time' would never mean one last time, but for the sake of their families, that's what they tell each other. It assuages some of the guilt they feel when Jongwoon runs fingers along Ryeowook's thigh under the table at a restaurant, or when they're watching each other and not their children, or when they're in a dingy motel bed, panting and rocking into each other, and Ryeowook's gasping at Jongwoon not to leave marks.
It doesn't matter how many years have passed. For Jongwoon and Ryeowook, there are no 'last times'. Not even for their parents, or their wives, or their children.