Word count: 2,376
Summary: Sehun is sent to the edge of the known universe, and Lu Han is left behind. (Lu Han/Sehun)
The first text message takes twenty-nine days to reach Earth. Sehun had promised to send it as soon as he'd managed to reconnect his phone to the satellite network, but it's brief, hurried, just a few short characters:
I okay. Launch good. Miss you much.
He sends it in Mandarin. Lu Han laughs, because Sehun's grammar has always been bad, but he hadn't though that such a simple message could be so easily warped into something nonsensical. It's the thought that matters, of course, but still.
Lu Han responds as quickly as he can. He knows how distance will rapidly multiply the time it'll take their messages to reach one another.
Use Korean next time. I miss you more.
After he's pressed the send key, watching the animated mailbox whisk away the pixels, Lu Han leans back and watches the first snowfall of the winter. This is the first time in three years that he hasn't spent the winter holidays with Sehun. Unusual, but many things these days are unusual. Some of them have bordered on the fantastic. Finding out that Sehun has been specially chosen to represent all of Asia on the EXOPLANET, the ship sent to defend the outreaches of the known universe, is frankly unbelievable.
Snow collects on the steps, the banisters, the small cat figurine in Lu Han's backyard.
He regrets sending such a short comment, but there's nothing else to write. Were there world enough and time, Lu Han would tell Sehun about the snow, about the frayed cuff on his favorite sweater that he'd noticed two days previously, about the cereal he'd spilled all over himself that morning, about the commute to school, about the girl on the train with the see-through blouse, about—
None of it's really important, it's just that Lu Han wants to know everything that runs through Sehun's mind at any given time, and the only way he can ensure that there are no secrets between the two of them is to tell Sehun everything, absolutely everything, and hope that the favor is returned.
The message Lu Han sends Sehun will take over a month to reach his ship. Lu Han bites his lip and refrains from throwing his phone across the room. He cannot afford to break it.
It will get worse, he knows. It will get much, much worse.
The day Lu Han breaks his wrist is the same day that Sehun's third message arrives. Lu Han has long since configured his phone to ding extra loudly when it registers Sehun's number.
I know I missed your birthday, the note says. I don't know how many I've missed, but one is too many. It's very dark in space. It's not pretty at all.
Lu Han doesn't want Sehun to spend the next three years worrying, so he dictates his reply to a classmate. Take pictures. I expect to be taken on a grand tour of the universe when you come home.
He does not mention the car accident. Sehun can't do anything about it. It's not fair to tell him about the things a few idiotic kids do with their first car and first promise of freedom.
It's an uncomfortable omission. Lu Han is sure that sharing his frustration would halve it, but he bites his lip and nods at the end of the simple dictation, choosing to press the send key all on his own.
Lu Han had spent the first year of their separation writing out long accounts of everything that happened to him every day. Eventually, that grew too tiresome. Eventually he stopped drafting letters to Sehun on paper and began composing them in his head--notes of abject emptiness, of endlessly repeated refrains: I miss you I miss you I need you come back. They were full of everything Sehun took with him: little reminders (keys umbrella wallet, Lu Han you always forget to bring your wallet with you you know) and inexpensive gifts that Sehun would sneak into Lu Han's backpack (a Rubik's Cube, a plastic Gundam figurine).
But Lu Han knows that he can't overcrowd the network, that the line of communication between their phones is thin and will get only thinner, that Sehun is speeding away from him at a rate Lu Han can't even comprehend, much less calculate.
That Lu Han is hurtling through time as quickly as Sehun is hurtling through space.
To the 25 year old Lu Han, from the 16 year old Oh Sehun: please find someone else.
This is the one Lu Han almost ignores and almost deletes. He breaks three plates when he reads it. The only reason he doesn't break a fourth is because Jongin snatches it away from him and Kris grabs his hand.
It comes three days after Lu Han graduates medical school. It's cruel and unfair because he'd been on a date a month previously (entirely under duress) and he'd mentioned his childhood sweetheard, the famous Oh Sehun who was representing Asia on the EXOPLANET. He'd even mentioned that they'd come to an agreement, that Sehun has looked down and away shyly and curiously and asked if the boy that he'd met at hagwon would wait for him while he flew off to save the universe.
"Of course," Lu Han had said, all too uncomprehending of the severity of that promise. "I like you."
Lu Han has spent many years wondering if he regrets that decision. He's 25 and hasn't yet had sex. They were too young back then to do anything but kiss, shy pressure of mouth against mouth, but now Lu Han's body feels the ache for someone else's hand, someone else's lips, someone else's rhythm rocking against him. He's watched many Valentines Days zip past. He's bought cards he'll never give Sehun, cards he fills with words he can't send and emotions he can't really describe other than in obsessive repetitions of sentiments he never had a chance to confess.
Sometimes he can close his eyes and remember, with startling vividness, the first time they'd pressed against each other, the first time Sehun admitted that he liked Lu Han Like That. That they were different from everyone else, that they were helplessly attracted to one another. He remembers the press of cold air against his cheek and the burn of the eventual defrost when they'd huddled together in a coffee shop, fingers entwined under the table, thigh tight against thigh.
It was the beginning of something that could have been perfect, Lu Han finds himself saying sometimes.
"Perhaps you were supposed to grow out of it," Jongin says over dinner one time when they've each had too much to drink. Lu Han had lost his first patient that day. Jongin had invited himself to stay the night. "We all grow out of our first loves."
"Sehun was different," Lu Ha replies bullishly.
Jongin is a bit too tipsy for delicacy. "You're in love with a memory. A fucking memory, Lu Han."
Lu Han can't reply to that. He gets too drunk to think properly and cries into the crook of Jongin's elbow. "I could have done better. If he hadn't gone into shock--"
"It isn't your fault. You did your best."
Lu Han pieces together an image of Sehun at seventeen and wonders what he would say, how he would look, what his arms would feel like. He reimagines him at twenty, at twenty-five.
Jongin doesn't flinch when Lu Han calls him by Sehun's name.
That night, like every other night, Lu Han dreams of Oh Sehun. And like every night to come, Sehun's face is slightly blurry. A bit too like Jongin, a bit too dissimilar to the digital photographs Lu Han carries in his phone. Eventually, the Sehun of Lu Han's dreams shows up faceless, featureless, an entirely blank slate.
Fuck you, Lu Han sends back after a few days of careful thought. Stay safe.
Lu Han is a very lonely thirty-two year old. He attends seven weddings and is best man at two. His friends stop asking why he's been single for almost all of his life. Lu Han stops telling people about Sehun. It's not exactly cocktail conversation, and very few people think about the EXOPLANET these days.
I'm in love with a boy who will always be 15, he thinks, tapping at his phone through his pants pocket.
No message comes that year or the year after or the year after.
The last text that Lu Han receives is the one that arrives a month before his thirty-sixth birthday. I have seen the edge of the world, it says.
He doesn't know how to respond. And, for a week, he doesn't. He doesn't know how to tell Sehun that he has wrinkles around his eyes and sometimes finds it difficult to use his left wrist. So he taps back a generic miss you, I await your return. and forgets about the entire thing. He gets promoted to assistant director of his ward and goes out to celebrate.
Two months later, the news trickles out: the EXOPLANET is on its way home.
The news hits Lu Han slowly. At first he drops a glass at the bar, later he smashes an entire set of plates in his apartment. He's excited and nervous and horribly lonely, but it's been years since he's thought realistically about Sehun's impending return. Sehun was always someone who was on his way out of Lu Han's dreams, never on his way back in. And Lu Han is thirty-six, seven, eight, and nine. Far too old for someone who is only biologically nineteen.
Lu Han wonders whether he's spent over two decades on a memory, on a shadow, on an illusion. He wonders if Sehun's even ever had to shave. Whether he's still growing. If he'll go to college when he gets back.
Lu Han replaces the plates with paper ones and breaks the corresponding set of cups. It takes hours to clean up the wreckage, but he feels better about it all.
When an expected landing date is released. Lu Han marks the day on his calendar but tries to spend very little time tracking the ship's progress through interstellar space. It's not appropriate.
The app he has on his phone doesn't count, of course. Most people have that. The return of the ship that saved mankind will be celebrated around the world. He checks it three times a day, just like everyone else. Well. Slightly more than everyone. But only slightly.
"Delusional," Kris sing-songs under his breath. "Absolutely fucking—"
The ship lands on a Tuesday. Oh Sehun is due to fly back to Korea on a Wednesday.
Lu Han takes the week off of work, and despite getting to the airport half a day early, he barely manages to find a spot to park his car, and finds that he's lost in the crowd. Unlike any of the other well-wishers, he hadn't prepared prepare a banner or sign to hold up. He definitely hadn't told Sehun's aging parents that he'd be coming, that Sehun's more-than-childhood-friend would be creepily observing their son's welcome ceremony. Another wrinkle in their relationship, Lu Han supposes.
But it's better this way, he thinks. Better not to be seen. So he stands in a sea of bodies with his hands in his pockets and tries not to look up too hopefully when someone calls Sehun's name and his heart starts thudding wildly.
The doors have opened. Everyone is screaming. Sehun is dressed in a dark suit, hair brushed to the side, face clearly made up. He looks painfully young. He's nineteen. Beautiful, but twenty years Lu Han's junior. Entirely inappropriate.
Lu Han feels time hit him like a freight train. He takes his phone out of his pocket with trembling fingers. He considers dropping it on the ground, leaving it to get trampled by the thicket of Sehun's admirers. Switching his number. Moving on.
But he looks up and forward just as Sehun peers through the crowd, through hundreds of faces, and sees him.
Lu Han knows it happens because Sehun smiles and Sehun never smiles and his face looks exactly the same as it did that afternoon behind hagwon and Lu Han's heart literally stops beating for an entire five seconds while he pushes his way to the front of the crowd gasping, "let me through let me through." He doesn't know how he manages to elbow aside a few hysterical fangirls, but he does, and it's easy and natural and there's some kind of animistic magnetism that he can't and never will be able to definite urging him onwards. Sehun's eyes are wide and he's laughing, giggling even, and Lu Han is shaking hysterically, Sehun's hands are on him and it's like a bolt of electricity, an earthshattering rightness, and there are security guards trying to peel them apart and Sehun is explaining everything, the man is asking for identification, and Lu Han can't think or move or do anything but cling to Sehun's hand and say, "you're back you're here I kept my promise I--"
"ID sir. You need to show me some identification."
The voice finally pierces Lu Han's haze of incoherency. This is love, this fate, this is everything he's ever wanted. And even if it takes years to make up the three that Sehun's lost and twenty that Lu Han has spent, it'll be worth it. He's glad he hasn't kept a diary. There's not enough time for them to start reliving irrelevant memories. Lu Han is a compendium of eveything that has ever happened to him, and that is enough.
"I. Excuse me," he says a bit dumbly. Sehun laughs again.
Lu Han pats himself down. Once. Twice. He blanches. "Oh my god," he says. "I. I think. The car?"
"You forgot your wallet," Sehun says, exasperated, "didn't you."
Time warps. Lu Han feels nineteen. He hasn't done something that stupid in years and he blinks a few times and blubbers, "I think I did."
"You idiot. Nothing's changed, has it?" And Sehun sounds so hopeful, voice pitched just a bit too high. Lu Han gasps a little bit. Finally, something breaks inside of his chest and something clicks and the world tilts. Time restarts.
They're in the school yard. They're sitting at the coffee shop. They're trading numbers for the very first time.
"Nothing," Lu Han says finally, half a promise and half a prayer. "Nothing at all."
And then, much later, in a whisper between shared sheets, "welcome home."
Author's Note: this is a thing that happened because:
jules: omg did you ever watch that anime movie hoshi no koe
omg that would be such a perfect sehun/lulu au fic JUST SAYIN'
yeah no seriously idk guys. i hate happy endings and i might have even hated hoshi no koe UNCLEAR i mean the entire time i was wondering about the cell phones how did they make the cell phones work i clearly suck at suspending my disbelief. anyway i wrote this up in gchat and it's ridiculous and the only characters i feel like i know enough to write about at this point are like tao and yixing and lu han because they are all fucking idiots but jules wanted it and i love her so, whatever.