Title: Personal Space
Length: One shot (~4 k)
Summary: Kevin wakes up for a glass of water and on his way, he finds AJ's diary. Of course, he reads it.
When Kevin woke up, the early morning air was almost oppressively cold. He suspected the offensive temperature was why he woke up, but at that point, it hardly mattered. He glanced at the clock sorrowfully. 3:42 AM.
Sighing, he swung his near-bare legs off the edge of the bed. As he tore the thick sheet off of him, an instant wave of freezing air rolled over him. Kevin shuddered. Kiseop snored peacefully somewhere across the room.
Kevin rolled his head tiredly, lamenting the situation. He had to get up again at 7 and he knew he would hate himself if he didn’t get back to sleep. Weighing his options quickly, he decided that a trip to the kitchen for a glass of water would be the wisest course of action.
He grumbled as he gently opened the noisy door and made his painful journey to the kitchen for a drink. It was eerily quiet in the dorm, far too quiet for Kevin’s taste. Treading on the plush carpet of the apartment, he noticed a soft yellow light from the dining area.
Someone must have forgotten to turn it off.
Kevin yawned as he shuffled to the refrigerator. He grabbed the pitcher and began to pour the chilled liquid into his glass eagerly. As he did, he noticed a figure slumped over the breakfast bar, a sight that made him shriek and jump back. Water sloshed out of the cup onto his hands as he tried to process the situation.
As his heartbeat returned to normal, he rolled his eyes. What the hell had AJ been doing for so long that he actually fell asleep? It looked completely uncomfortable and on top of that, it was freezing. Without a blanket, AJ was practically asking to get sick.
Kevin went to the living area and took the huge blanket off of the couch. As he returned to AJ, he shook him half-heartedly. “AJ, wake up.”
He stopped mid-shake as he spied the paper underneath AJ’s arm. The pages were creased and thick, covered with smudged graphite. His breath caught in his throat as realization dawned on him.
It was a notebook. No, not a notebook. It was the notebook. The ridiculous, 600 page notebook AJ bought during “Neverland” promotions. The one he composed in. The one AJ called pet names and cooed to. The one that AJ tackled Kevin for trying to read.
Kevin licked his lips. AJ never showed the notebook to anyone, not even Eli. He had taken it with him to Columbia. He hid it at night when he slept. The band had accepted it as a quirk, something uniquely AJ, but Kevin had never been satisfied with that.
It peeked out seductively, the pages sticking out just enough to show that there were words on the page, but not quite enough for Kevin to read them.
He knew that this was unfair and a violation of privacy. But he couldn’t control himself. He had to know what was in that goddamned notebook. AJ wasn’t a generally secretive person, which made it that much more appealing. He did everything in his power to satisfy Kevin’s wants, gave in to him when he whined for a special kind of snack or an expensive shirt--this notebook was one of the few things on the planet that AJ had consistently denied him.
Shooting a quick, nervous glance at AJ, Kevin observed that he was fast asleep. There was no way he would notice if it went missing.
Snaking his thin fingers underneath AJ’s heavy arms, he tugged the notebook gently, gritting his teeth anxiously. There was no telling what AJ would do if he woke up now. Even if the rapper was infatuated with him, that could only get Kevin so far. AJ grumbled something in his sleep and furrowed his brow in annoyance, burying his head deeper into his bare arms.
Kevin allowed a small puff of relief to escape his lips as he danced triumphantly on his toes. His eyes darted immediately to the cover, which he had never really gotten a good look at. AJ had always assaulted him before he got the chance. It was black, sleek, with white lines where AJ had creased it. It had a built in bookmark that was tucked into the back cover, ignored. Sliding a finger into the page that AJ had been on, Kevin started from the very beginning.
In small, English letters, AJ had written his name in the left corner of the front cover. It was unassuming, formal, so unlike the AJ that Kevin had come to know and--well, tolerate.
The first pages brought a tidal wave of nostalgia. Kevin let out something between a breath and a laugh as he looked at the first drafts of Obsession, his old duet with Kiseop. It had been a fun track, something that had shown all the members that AJ was a legitimate asset when it came to composition.
Encouraging messages were scrawled over the margins in blue ink, things like, ‘Show them you’re serious!’ and ‘Don’t worry, they’ll like it!’ Kevin shook his head sadly. The truth was that while AJ and Hoon were running around trying to prove themselves, the others were still just trying to get through the days without collapsing. They didn’t even realize how hard the two had been trying until much later.
As Kevin watched the clumsy words turn into real lyrics, he smiled. AJ was nothing if not tenacious. On the last draft, one that was quite similar to the official release, AJ wrote a note over the top. ‘LEAVE KEVIN ALONE.’
He stared at those words, confusion contorting his features. He would have laughed on another day, but his tired mind took several moments to register what it was reading.
Thinking back, Kevin could remember that he had found it rather strange that AJ had asked Kiseop to sing the song with him. After all, by that time, everyone had been aware that AJ’s feelings towards Kevin were more than platonic. Only a complete idiot wouldn’t have and when AJ announced that he was writing a song called Obsession, it had almost gone without saying that the song was inspired by the fair-haired singer. It had been so obvious that Soohyun had clapped his hands and turned to Kevin to ask for details before AJ stopped the leader to inform him that he intended to sing with Kiseop.
Kevin had been surprised, and yes, maybe a little jealous, but he had never considered that it was a deliberate decision on AJ’s part. In fact, the thought of AJ being anything but aggressive and completely obvious in his romantic attempts sounded like a fantasy.
But as he leafed through the pages, he began to see more and more notes about him. ‘Maybe today will be the day Kevin praises you!’ ‘Don’t get so down about Kevin. He’ll come around!’ There were more, dozens of them. Kevin found a heat creeping up his neck into his face; this was downright embarrassing. AJ sounded like a lovestruck middle school girl.
Sometimes, the words took a dangerously dark tone. ‘It doesn’t matter anymore. It’s not like I mean much to him.’ ‘He pushed me away again today.’ ‘Haha, he really doesn’t care, does he?’
As Kevin turned to cautiously look at AJ’s sleeping face, his adrenaline started to kick in. AJ’s face was peaceful, the skin moving in time with his slow breaths. His lips were slightly parted and coated with saliva. Kevin turned away abruptly, irritated. He set the notebook down softly, trying to sort out his feelings.
Why was AJ so attached to him? It made no sense. There were five other members who were perfectly viable. It wasn’t right. Kevin wished that AJ would just move on so they could be friends, the way they were meant to be. Just bandmates. He was shaken by the desperation he sensed in AJ’s words, in his wavering handwriting. Something inside of Kevin trembled sadly.
Sighing, he picked the notebook back up and tried to ignore the unsteadiness of his hands.
Mishmashed words, nonsense sentences, and seemingly random phrases leapt from the page and were all strung together to paint a terrifying image of AJ’s cluttered mind. Sometimes his handwriting was hard, sometimes soft. Sometimes his words were kind, sometimes they were crass. This was more than a lyrical notebook--it was a diary. It was intimate and private and it was so full of AJ that Kevin felt uncomfortable. He always intentionally kept a certain amount of distance between them, but it was getting hard to ignore AJ.
Taking the seat next to the troublesome man, Kevin frowned. Even though AJ’s attempts at flirting were awkward and his persistence was borderline obnoxious, the thought of it ending made Kevin’s heart sink. It was selfish and terrible, but Kevin didn’t want to think of AJ as a real person with real problems and real insecurities. He wanted AJ to stay the lovesick puppy that would always wait for him.
The journal was a tangible testament to the fact that AJ was indeed a human being whose feelings could waver. That he did feel ugly sometimes, that he sometimes felt totally alone, that he was sometimes afraid that UKISS would never succeed.
Kevin sighed heavily and poured another glass of water. Taking his seat again, he sat down and slid the blanket he had draped over AJ over to himself. The huge quilt draped easily over Kevin’s thin shoulders and the rapper’s back.
Taking a deep breath, he opened the notebook again. This time, he noticed a series of something between lyrics and poems and stories--vignettes? They were vague and mysterious, alluding to events that Kevin barely remembered, focusing on seemingly mundane things like the outline of a microphone. There was one that was written with clear, hard words. It talked about locks of hair, the way sunlight played with it, the way air tousled it, the way dust particles floated past it. Kevin read it lazily, only realizing during the last few lines that it was about him. ‘That hair that ducks away from me, too far, too close, that smile that taunts me.’ Kevin swallowed the lump of guilt that had been building in his throat. He had always believed that AJ’s feelings towards him were peaceful acceptance--infatuation, but an understanding that there was no future for them.
As the vignettes became more and more clear, it was like looking at weathered snapshots from a Polaroid. What once to Kevin had been fluid events--an interview or a dance practice--were now separated into fragments that were punctuated by inappropriate feelings, by longings that would never come to fruition.
“This is stupid,” Kevin whispered under his breath. It was. The way AJ had pined after him all this time was absurd, pointless. Why couldn’t he just move on?
But even as Kevin thought the words, he knew they weren’t genuine. There was no conviction behind them. He didn’t want AJ to look at anyone but him. That was why he would allow AJ to bypass those barriers occasionally, letting him hold his hand or give him a hug that lasted a heartbeat too long. That was why he sent flirtatious texts and pulled him close.
Despite all that, there was a ubiquitous terrified feeling that rested at the bottom of Kevin’s gut. It was why he always immediately shoved AJ away. Carefully placed touches and gentle pushes, sharp insults and words like whips--Kevin had tried his best to discourage AJ, but he kept coming back. Truthfully, Kevin was scared senseless of the devotion that AJ offered. It was silly, but he was afraid that if he let AJ in, then maybe he would lose interest. Maybe he wouldn’t want him anymore. So he always kept the rapper at an arm’s length, just far enough to be safe, but just close enough to tease.
Kevin realized that he had been staring at the same page for several minutes. Turning it, he saw a page that was almost entirely blank, soft and small black letters jumping from the milky page. It was dated August 1, 2012, which was only a few days before AJ left for Columbia.
‘He won’t miss me, will he?’
Kevin’s heart lurched. No words about how he would be leaving his home country, no complaints about leaving his friends, only that one, abrupt sentence. Kevin squeezed his eyes shut in shame. He had missed AJ.
Just because he didn’t tell him didn’t mean it wasn’t true, right? Just because he wasn’t crying in front of him didn’t mean he didn’t care. He had felt so perpetually empty, so hollow without AJ by his side, as though his existence was pointless.
When AJ had returned, he had maintained a cool facade, only to break down in the bathroom later that night. Relief had flooded his entire being, as though he was taking a breath after being underwater for too long. The moment AJ had stepped off his plane, the world felt like it was bursting and teeming with color.
It was almost comical; had Kevin missed him?
The page that faced Kevin was covered with psychology notes. Every once in awhile, he had written out a half-hearted joke about one of the members, especially Eli.
‘I saw a pigeon today,’ one entry read. ‘I asked him to send a message to Eli, but I don’t think it particularly cared.’
There were also terms that he remembered using them--for cognitive dissonance, he had simply written ‘Dongho,’ next to it. Kevin had no idea what it meant, but it was all over the place, further illustrating the mess that was AJ’s mind.
‘Approach-avoidance conflict: When an objective is both repellent and attractive. (Kevin)’ Kevin wrinkled his nose. ‘For example, a man in love will be both intimidated by and attracted to the object of his affections.’
Kevin slumped against the counter, suddenly tired. Exhaustion rolled over him as he looked at the clock for what felt like the first time in hours. 4:29 AM.
Rubbing his temples, Kevin wrapped the blanket closer to himself, unwilling to go back to his cold room with Kiseop. AJ’s body seemed to radiate warmth. Something about being in the situation was exhilarating.
Kevin studied the contours of AJ’s face, still holding the book in his hands. It was intimate, filled with AJ’s insecurities and fears. Kevin realized that his mixed messages said nothing to AJ except that he had a chance.
If he tried hard enough...
Kevin curled up closer to the larger man, suddenly afraid he would lose him. It had been two years. Even AJ would get tired of him eventually, wouldn’t he? Fear plagued Kevin as he thought about going to practice and not being greeted by AJ. Not being held when he needed to be. Not feeling that unconditional love from him. Not being teased. Letting everything AJ had taught him to feel--annoyance, rage, sadness, happiness--letting it all disappear.
AJ snored softly next to Kevin. The notebook suddenly felt incredibly heavy.
Kevin didn’t feel like he was really there. He felt himself leave his body as his lack of sleep got to him. Cranky petulance welled up in his chest and he soon felt himself fighting the urge to throw a fit. Everything was so complicated, so unfair.
With mild surprise, he realized that he was crying. His face was hot with tears and the pulsing blood underneath his skin. Before he knew it, one tear multiplied into several. His balled up hands were covered in the saltine droplets. Every feeling that he had tucked away inside of himself for so long was bubbling to the surface. The shame, the fright, the confusion, the unadulterated need.