I count the seconds with grim amusement, tipping the wine glass and watching as the contents inside sloshed a dark, cranberry red.
The television is static, just images that fail to catch my attention as I wait for Christmas to come.
Slowly, my eyes return to the clock hanging on the wall, watching with bated breath as the minutes trickle by.
5 more minutes…
Feeling unproductive, I placed the wine glass on the coffee table and watched the wine settle at the bottom.
It looks dull, lonely…
Mirroring exactly what I felt now.
If only things were different..
“Hyung! What’s taking you so long?” Junsu asked, watching me cook with apt concentration.
“Yeah hyung. I’m hungry.” Changmin c0mentd, leaning against the d0orway of the kitchen. He smirked. “You’re losing your touch, aren’t you?”
“Yah! Min! Just for that, you won’t get to eat what I made!”
“Jaejoong hyung, I’ll eat Changmin’s share!”Junsu eagerly suggested, eyes fixed unto my flawless creation.
“Hyung~ you love me don’t you? Don’t listen to dolphin boy!” Changmin shot back, grabbing my sleeve.
I laughed, and tried to shake his hand off, but he wouldn’t budge. Yunho then peeked curiously from the doorway, watching the chaos we create in the kitchen.
“Yah, you two! Go back to the living room, Yoochun’s waiting for you to finish your game!”
The two scurried off to the living room, outbursts prevalent as they continued to oust each other.
“Yah! Max Changmin! Give it back!”
I smiled at Yunho, who shrugged and grinned back at me. “Need help, Jaejoong ah?”
I smiled at him good naturedly. “No need Yunho yah! I’ll bring it there myself. Just watch the 3 of them, make sure they don’t do anything beyond what is normal.” I cringed when I heard a crash.
I felt my lips tilt in mirth.
I looked at the bare kitchen lifelessly,
I should be preparing food for my dongsaengs now, not staring at the clean -almost too clean- table.
I feel lethargy creeping up my limbs as the silence suffocates me in.
I can’t breathe..
4 more minutes.
Until the clock strikes twelve.
“Jae hyung! Where’s the wine?” Yoochun hollered, rummaging the cupboards as I placed the food oN the coffee table.
“It’s in the fridge, Yoochun ah.” I shouted back, making my voice louder as Changmin and Junsu did the same, bickering over the food.
Yunho was laughing by my side at the two’s antics as Yoochun came and placed the wine bottle on the table.
Sitting down once again on the plump cushions, I wait for the laughter to bounce back to me…
But it never came.
The wine bottle looked at me morosely.
It is silent. Unmoving.
I tear my eyes away and glanced at the clock.
3 more minutes till Christmas.
“We should try fireworks.” Yoochun suggested, eyes gleaming mischievously.
I grinned and nodded with excitement, mirroring the others’’ expressions.
Without missing a beat, Junsu and Yoochun pulled us outside to our balcony.
Seoul glitters with magnificence, twinkling lights making the city appear bustling, alive. The stars are bright in the distance, as fireworks set all over the city.
I laugh as the light blinds me, smoke clinging to my clothing as we lit each firework, one by one.
It was beautiful.
It was still the same.
I grip the balcony railing tightly, my eyes taking in all the city has to offer. Tall skyscrapers tower over the buildings by its side. Han River was breathtaking; the light’s reflection bounced on its surface and created a muted, orange glow. The city is alight with bright lights, making it appear like the city is ablaze.
Fireworks still littered the midnight sky, splashes of color against a dark canvas.
Seoul didn’t change…
But we did.
2 more minutes…
“Jaejoong ah, here’s your gift…Sorry, I wasn’t able to wrap it up…” Yunho said sheepishly, scratching the back of his head.
I pouted at him, my hand extending to receive his gift. “Why??”
“I was really busy shooting Heading to the Ground..I had to ask the director to cut me some slack and give me fifteen minutes to buy everyone’s gift..” He replied, digging his bag to give me my gift.
Pulling it out from the depths of his bag with a flourish, he handed me the parcel.
My hands shaking with excitement, I opened it, and almost immediately, my eyes moistened.
“Yah, hyung! Are you crying?” Junsu asked me, confusion written on his features, plain as day.
“Men cry in their hearts, don’t they, hyung?” Changmin commented slyly.
Yunho slapped Changmin’s hand lightly.
“Don’t mind Changmin…just cry, hyung.” Yoochun told me, patting my back.
I laughed instead.
Now is the perfect time for me to cry, isn’t it, Chun?
Now, when no one can hear how my heart is tearing into pieces because of your absence.
I cover my face with my hands, feeling my shoulder’s shake as I try to hold back my tears.
I miss you.
1 more minute…
Till the Clock strikes twelve.
“A toast to TVXQ!” I said proudly, raising my glass high above my head.
“For our success.” Yunho smiled, as his hand found mine.
“For our pains and sufferings.” Yoochun whispered solemnly, Junsu’s arm flung over his shoulder for support.
“For everything we ever achieved..” Changmin announced, clapping Yoochun on his back.
“For our Cassiopeia. For our family. And for ourselves.” Junsu said, as Changmin gave him a one arm hug.
Slowly, I drank the cold liquor and felt it burn a little down my throat. I placed my glass on the table, flung my arms around Yunho and Yoochun, and looked at the time.
It is 12 o’ clock.
“A toast…” I whispered bitterly, my lips against the rim of my glass as my tears threatened to spill over. “To myself…”
For losing all that I had.
For regretting my decisions.
For crying over my mistakes.
For trying to forget when I certainly can’t.
For crying when I should be happy.
For missing you.
For wishing you to come back.
For wanting you to be by my side.
“Merry Christmas, hyung!”
Junsu squealed, as Changmin shoveled past him to give me a bone crushing hug.
Yunho and Yoochun waltzed in, carrying bags of grocery upon each arm. They grinned at me, making their way to the kitchen to place them down. Hurrying back, they wasted no second to join in the impromptu group hug, pulling Junsu in with them while they suffocate me with their hugs.
Seeing my tear streaked cheeks, Yunho smiled and wiped them away. ‘Didn’t think we would come, would you?”
I just stared, fresh tears brimming over even as I try to hold them back. “But I…”
“Thought SM wouldn’t allow us to see you?” Changmin scoffed, crossing his arms in pretend anger. “Hyung, even if that were the case, you know better than that.”
Yunho pulled me into his arms, my tears soaking his shirt as he tried to comfort me, but failing terribly. “Changmin’s right, Jaejoong ah. We wouldn’t leave you, you know.”
“How could you cry like that, hyung? I’m the crybaby, not you!’ Yoochun pouted, even as his tears fell down silently, eyes reddening.
“Yunho hyung promised us, remember?? With our Cassiopeia…the Five of us will never part!” Junsu exclaimed, patting Yoochun on the shoulder softly.
I choked back a laugh, wiping my tears away as Yunho let me out of his embrace, choosing instead to flung his arm around my shoulder.
“I’m sorry. I’ve had doubts. Will you forgive me?” I said, pouting my lips as I looked at my dongsaengs.
Changmin rolled his eyes, as Junsu and Yoochun affectionately latched on his arms, grinning happily, despite the tear stains on Yoochun’s face, and the slight reddening of Junsu’s eyes. Changmin’s eyes softened.
“Hyung, you’re human. It’s normal to have doubts. But you trust me and Yunho hyung, right? That no matter what happens, we’d never do anything to hurt you? Yoochun hyung and Junsu hyung also remember that, right?”
They both nodded, Junsu clasping the silver chain around his neck, feeling the cold metal touch his bare skin, shouldering the burden of a particular promise. Yoochun held his hand over his heart, to symbolize his steadfast trust in everyone, as long as his heart kept beating.
They had remembered, to Always Keep the Faith.
As we all linked hands, hearing the echoes of that heavy promise as the rest of the world shouted the greetings for the holiday… I realized then.
We are more than just TVXQ. We are a family.